Baker announces #MaskUpMA campaign, new funding

Governor Charlie Baker on July 1 announced the launch of a new campaign, #MaskUpMA, in an effort to remind residents that face coverings are required in public.

Baker said that the campaign consists of testimonials on social media, “an updated PSA from the Department of Public Health,” and a website: mass.gov/maskup, where videos show Baker and even Wally the Green Monster touting the importance of face coverings.

“If you’re having an event outside or inside and can’t social distance, wear a face covering,” Baker said. “The evidence is clear. Face coverings stop the spread.”

Baker also announced last week that his administration, along with the legislature, “are committing to providing cities and towns no less than the Fiscal Year 20 level of funding for unrestricted general government aid and school aid funding,” he said. “This funding commitment also provides an additional $107 million in Chapter 70 aid compared to Fiscal [Year] 20. This agreement, in addition to the federal aid dollars, distributed to all cities and towns, adds up to well over $1 billion in new funds to ensure schools can fund the changes that they need to make to teach kids this fall.”

Baker also discussed the slight uptick in the positive case rate, and the importance of continuing to follow social distancing rules, washing hands, and wearing face coverings. He said that the positive rest rate last week was about 2 percent, which is “slightly higher” than the rate of about 1.7 percent from previous weeks.

“We’re obviously monitoring this closely,” Baker said, adding that it’s a “reminder to us” that COVID is still here.

“For the most part, the people of Massachusetts have done the right things over the past couple of months, wearing face coverings, social distancing, staying home, limiting gatherings, practicing good hygiene and washing their hand,” Baker said. “Businesses and communities have gone to great lengths to follow the sector guidance that was developed by the Reopening Advisory Board that was chaired by the Lt. Governor and have found safer ways to operate after being closed for months.”

He said that due to everyone playing their part, transmission rates and hospitalizations are down by more than 90 percent since the middle of April. 

However, on Tuesday, Baker said, “We’ve only had a slight uptick from a low of 1.7 percent to two percent, but we’ll be forced to adjust our plans if the data warrants it. That could mean gathering sizes could be reduced or we could make some of our business regulations more strict.”

He said that while reopening the state is “obviously a big part of the goal,” it cannot be done if people do not continue to wear masks and socially distance to help stop the spread. 

“COVID does not follow any rules,” Baker said. “We should not and cannot let our guard down until there’s a treatment or a vaccine.”

He cited the recent “disturbing reports” of large gatherings at houses, a football camp in South Weymouth, and a party on a private boat in the Boston Harbor which is now being investigated by the state’s Department of Public Health as a possible cluster. 

“Transmission is much more likely in very large groups where people aren’t wearing face coverings or socially distancing,” Baker said. “This behavior dramatically increases the likelihood of COVID-19 infecting other people and this virus can, and in many cases, does, take off like wildfire.” 

He said that facial coverings are required for events inside and out, as they stop the spread of the virus.

He added that people also need to be responsible about traveling, and reminded residents of the state’s new travel guidelines, which can be found at mass.gov/matraveler.

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