Emergency lifts, work continues on pandemic policy extensions

BOSTON — The Massachusetts COVID-19 State of Emergency lifted overnight Tuesday, taking with it most of the executive orders Gov. Charlie Baker put in place to force restrictions and special allowances during the 15-month-long crisis.

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Baker announced nearly a month ago his plans to lift the emergency on June 15, but the Legislature still hasn’t agreed on the menu of pandemic era policy extensions it wishes to keep in place. That work continues Tuesday in the House and Senate during the first sessions since news broke Monday night about House Speaker Ron Mariano’s Florida health scare and pacemaker installation.

The emergency declaration lifted with COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts approaching 18,000 and the U.S. death toll nearing 600,000.

The State House remains mostly closed but Baker will be back on Beacon Hill on Tuesday for an 11 a.m. press conference with Treasurer Deb Goldberg to announce a new initiative to increase vaccination rates. The governor has until Thursday to act on a bill (H 3827) on his desk that would steer $5.18 billion in federal aid into a new Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.

Baker said Monday that the main challenge to reopening the State House is that “it’s an indoor building that operates and acts as an outdoor space.” COVID-19 transmission risks are less of a concern outdoors, he said, “but there are plenty of indoor spaces where people continue to want to see people be careful.”

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“The biggest challenge with the State House is there really are no rules around congregating or gathering inside that building, but it’s an inside space, and I think one of the things that the Legislature has been talking both with each other about and also with us is how do we establish a rule base for accessing and using the State House, given the fact that it really feels historically it’s operated more like a public park even though it’s an indoor space,” he said.

The State House has “got to be as open as it used to be at some point, and the real question is just going to be when.”

Following the end of the State of Emergency, the governor along with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will join Health and Human Service Secretary Marylou and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg to make an announcement about a new initiative to increase vaccination rates across the Commonwealth.

This press conference will be streamed live on Boston 25 at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 15.

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