COVID

Charlie Baker defends position on mask mandate

"It’s important for everybody to understand that vaccines and boosters are, in fact, doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing."

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Gov. Charlie Baker defended his position on a statewide mask mandate Wednesday on Boston Public Radio.

Gov. Charlie Baker defended his position on a statewide mask mandate, dodged questions about Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl and discussed the importance of tipping well Wednesday on Boston Public Radio with hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.

Braude and Eagan peppered Baker with questions about his resistance to a statewide mask mandate, despite the growing number of local leaders who are calling on him to issue one.

COVID-19

“If you believe it is important enough for the governor to stand up and urge people to do something that is good for their own health and the health of their neighbors, why would you not take the next step and say you are required to do this, as a lot of people are urging you to do, including a lot of people who have expertise in health stuff?” Braude asked.

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Baker said his administration’s strategy to combat the coronavirus is layered and multidimensional, relying on rapid tests, the state’s high vaccination rates, and the statewide mask mandates for the vulnerable, like schoolchildren and the elderly living in congregate care settings.

“It’s important for everybody to understand that vaccines and boosters are, in fact, doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing,” he said. “They are our best defense.”

He also said he supported individual communities coming up with their own mandates. Some cities and towns have required masks in all indoor public spaces, others require them in municipal buildings and others have no mandates of their own.

“We will help local communities with anything they want to do that is additional or different than what we are up to and that is going to continue to be our policy,” Baker said.

He also supported making rapid test kits more available, as a way to curtail the spread of COVID-19, which he acknowledged would likely get worse as the omicron variant becomes more prevalent.

The hosts also questioned Baker about his decision not to run for another term as governor, as well as his thoughts on Geoff Diehl protesting at Mayor Michelle Wu’s press conference announcing vaccine requirements.

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Baker said he had no regrets about not running for another term, adding he plans to spend the next 13 months focused on his job.

When asked about his thoughts on Diehl – a Trump supporter and a harsh critic of his – and whether he would support his candidacy for governor, Baker reiterated he was “focused on my job, Jim.”

“I heard that,” Braude said.

“Good, I’m glad,” Baker replied.

Baker did he say he found protests like the one Diehl was involved in “not helpful, at all, in any way.”

“If you are not going to be offering solutions, or constructive advice, or providing alternatives, then you are not really helping very much,” he said. “These are serious times and serious issues and serious people are trying to do things to work us through it. That should be respected and understood.”

The show ended on a lighter note, with Baker talking about making an effort to eat out, get takeout, and tip well during the ongoing pandemic.

He used to tend bar – at the Oxford Alehouse in Harvard Square – and his wife used to waitress, so the couple has a soft spot for those in the industry.

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“If you can afford to be a big tipper, you should try,” Baker said. “It’s been a rough ride for everybody in that space.”

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