Governor Charlie Baker held a press conference on August 20, where he, along with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, spoke about testing in the state and announced that all Massachusetts students will be required to get a flu shot this year.
Baker talked about testing resources for students in grades K through 12, and how the state is preparing for new cases and “allocating the resources to respond to them.”
He said, “until there’s a medical breakthrough like a vaccine, COVID will be a part of our lives that we must find a way to deal with accordingly.”
He said that a rapid response testing program will be available to “quickly deliver testing resources for school testing and personnel” should it be necessary, and as the school year starts, the state wants to be able to continue to provide “robust” testing.
Baker also said that the Stop the Spread Initiative, which is currently providing free testing in 20 communities across the state that have high rates of COVID-19, will continue through the end of September.
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said that the administration is “encouraged” that around 70 percent of the state’s school districts are planning on bringing students back using a hybrid or fully in-person model. She announced that to increase public health and safety this school year, “all Massachusetts school students enrolled in childcare, preschool, K-12, and post secondary” school children ages six months are older will be required to receive the flu vaccine.
“Every year, getting vaccinated is hugely important to our public health,” she said. “We are proud that across the nation, we have the highest immunization for our children and youth, but we can do better.”
Students must be vaccinated by December 31, Polito said, adding that children who are homeschooled are exempt, but children enrolled in schools who will be learning remotely are not, and neither are college students.
“It’s imperative that we get students back to the classrooms,” she said, and this requirement “will provide a necessary layer of protection. Every case of the flu we can prevent helps prevent unnecessary disruptions,” and also frees up time and space for healthcare professionals to focus on COVID-19 patients should there be another spike in cases, she said.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said that with testing “widely available” across the state at over 250 testing sites, “we’re one of the top testers in the nation.” She said that the state is working to expand in-state lab capacity to make the testing turnaround even quicker, but right now it is around two days, which she said is much quicker than some states that have patients waiting for a week or more for their results.
Tax Free Weekend and My Local MA Campaign Launch
Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito on Tuesday announced the launch of a new campaign, My Local MA, ahead of the state’s annual tax free weekend which starts this Saturday, August 29, and runs through Sunday, August 30.
“Small businesses have usually employed about half of the Massachusetts workforce, and the continue to serve in many respects as the backbone of a lot of our downtowns and main streets,” Baker said at his press conference on August 25.
This coming weekend is Tax Free weekend in the Commonwealth, and sales tax will not have to be paid on items costing less than $2500.
“A tax break is always good for the tax payers, obviously, but this year in particular, we really want everybody to think about taking advantage of the chance that this provides for you to go shop in your locally owned, locally operated businesses in your community,” Baker said.
He announced the launch of a campaigned called My Local MA, which will run through the end of the year. The campaign’s goal is to “encourage people to shop locally, and to make travel plans within MA,” the governor said. It’s “also an effort to remind people that their behavior matters.”
He said that while people are encouraged to go out and shop local businesses, it’s important to do it safely by wearing a face covering and maintaining a safe distance from others.
“Please show your support for the local businesses in your community and get out this weekend,” he said.
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said that “local businesses, many of which are family owned, are strong contributors to the history and character of our main streets, our downtowns, and our villages.” They also employ locally and “fill a key need in our communities,” she said.
“When we all buy local, we’re doing our part to preserve the Massachusetts we know and love so much,” she said.
The My Local MA campaign ads will be seen on social media, across the web, on billboards, in print publications, on the radio and television, and other places, Polito said. She said the state is working with the “16 regional tourism councils to help implement the overall marketing strategies that encourage residents to purchase products and travel within Massachusetts.”
For more information on the campaign, visit findmylocalma.com.