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Covid-19 & Emergency Preparedness & Management Opening Remarks

The following are Representative Driscoll's opening remarks from the first hearing conducted by the Joint Committee on Covid-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management on Thursday, February 25, 2021. Representative Driscoll is the House Chair.

This oversight hearing is taking place the same week that we marked, as a nation, the grim milestone of 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. No one has been left untouched by this virus or by the public health restrictions put in place to contain it. As we all know, Black and Brown residents have borne a disproportionate share of this burden, and our response and recovery must be centered on that reality.

But even as we take stock of the damage this pandemic has caused in the nearly one year since a state of emergency was declared in Massachusetts, there appear to be signs of hope.

Hospitalizations and average positivity rates are going down. We have two strong vaccines in distribution and potentially two more on the way. To date, over one million Massachusetts residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Unfortunately, these hopeful figures do not tell the whole story. These numbers hide the confusion caused by frequent pivots and course-corrections, and the daily frustrations residents face trying to access the vaccine.

Residents must book their appointments on a cumbersome and flawed website, and hope their internet connection is stronger than the thousands of others competing for the same batch of limited appointments.

This system benefits those with time, resources, and mobility, and disadvantages the most vulnerable populations and those that have already suffered disproportionately from this pandemic. It prioritizes efficiency over equity.

The Legislature has a duty to ensure an effective and equitable recovery for all residents of the Commonwealth. This new joint committee was established to focus on those efforts, and today’s hearing is a continuation of the Legislature’s engagement with the Administration on how to continuously improve the vaccine rollout.

This is a monumental challenge, and our success depends on the close partnership and collaboration between every level and branch of government. My colleagues in the House understand the pulse of their districts and are closest to their constituents. We have been in close contact with the Baker Administration to field our constituents’ concerns, and we are grateful that the Administration has been largely responsive to the advocacy and outreach of House Members.

We also know that Governor Baker, Secretary Sudders, and other members of the Administration brief the public daily on the state’s progress. But we can all benefit from taking a moment to pause and reflect on the big picture of where we’ve been, and what lies ahead.

It is my hope that today’s hearing will be productive and, most importantly, constructive. Our constituents are not interested in a spectacle; they want solutions and results.


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