Baker: Younger people causing runup in COVID-19 cases

Says state is well prepared; no surge yet

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday blamed the runup in COVID-19 cases over the last two months on lax behavior by people in their 20s and 30s, and insisted the state is well prepared for the rising caseload.

The governor, who in early August dismissed suggestions that young people were causing  case levels to rise, on Tuesday placed the blame on the under-40 crowd. “That community, more than any other, is driving the increase in cases,” he said.

According to data released last Wednesday, people under 40 accounted for 61 percent of the 7,674 COVID-19 cases over the previous two weeks. Those 19 and under accounted for 20 percent, those in the 20-29 age group represented 23 percent, and those 30 to 39 accounted for 17.5 percent.

Baker noted younger people tend not to get seriously ill from COVID-19, but he said some do and all of them can spread the disease to others who may be more vulnerable. He said Thanksgiving could be a challenging time for household and intergenerational spread of the disease.

The focus on young people emerged at a State House press conference where Baker and his top aides sought to show how the state is well prepared for a runup in cases this fall and winter. Baker said the increase in cases was expected. “This is something we planned for and anticipated,” he said. “We’ve done the work. We’re prepared to respond to this virus like never before.”

Baker rejected a suggestion that the growing numbers reflect a buildup to a second surge. “I don’t consider where we are to be anywhere near that,” he said, although he acknowledged “there is no question this virus will continue to challenge us.”

The governor and his top aides spent nearly an hour comparing where the state is now compared to where it was during the surge in March and April. He said the state has plenty of hospital and intensive care unit capacity. He said the state could do 2,000 tests a day in March, 13,000 a day in May, and can now do 60,000 a day. It will soon be able to do 100,000 a day.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Baker said the state has enough personal protection equipment to last through the end of 2021 and more than 1,200 ventilators stockpiled.

“We are in a very different position with respect to our ability to test and trace and isolate quarantine, and we have far better data that we can make available to our communities and to our health care system than we could last spring, and that we’ve done a lot of work in particular, with the health care community and the long-term care community, to sort of make them far more robust with respect to their ability to deal with whatever might come,” Baker said. “I think it’s important to remember that we are not where we were in March.”