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A map on the state's website shows the low-risk states for COVID-19 in white. Anyone arrive from a higher-risk state, shown in red, must quarantine or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Governor Signs Order Requiring Travelers to Isolate 14 Days

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed an executive order requiring anyone entering the commonwealth from any state outside the Northeast to self-quarantine for 14 days or provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19.

The new travel order, outlined on the state's website, carries a $500 per day fine for anyone violating the rule, which goes into effect on Aug. 1.

It applies to any residents of the commonwealth returning to Massachusetts as well as visitors from — for now — 41 states not identified as "lower-risk" states. The lower-risk states currently include the five other New England states plus New York, New Jersey and Hawaii.

That list of lower-risk states is subject to change as data changes with regard to infection rates. The states will be evaluated on two criteria: the "average daily cases per 100K [state residents] below six and positive test rate below 5 percent, both measured as a 7-day rolling average," according to the order.

Baker and Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said the commonwealth will be posting signage at highways and rest areas as well as in airports, train stations and bus terminals.

"Airbnbs and hotels are going to be expected to inform people when they book a room and when they show up that these are the rules," Baker said.

If a resident suspects someone is not following the rules, he or she can make a report to the local Board of Health or to the commonwealth by dialing 211, Baker said.

Citing the high compliance he has seen around the state with social distancing and face covering guidelines, Baker said he believes the new travel order also will be widely followed.

"If we make it clear to people on the front end and make clear to the airlines and other travel partners … what the rules of the game are, the vast majority of people will play by the rules," he said.

In addition to voluntary self-quarantine, anyone entering the state from outside the Northeast will be required to submit a form with contact information that will allow officials to check in with the recent entrants to confirm they are adhering to the self-quarantine rule, Baker said.

Workers in certain critical industries, like first-responders, will be exempt from the self-quarantine requirement and allowed to leave their residences to go to work.

Baker said there are three reasons why he rolled out the travel order at this time.

"The amount of interstate travel and, to some extent, the amount of international travel going on has gone from very low to low," Baker said. "It's higher now than it was 30 to 60 days ago.

"There are many parts of the U.S. that have seen very significant increases in positive test rates, and positive test rates per capita over the last 30 to 60 days, which has changed the game in the way we think about interstate travel. And the third thing, obviously, is there are a lot of people coming here for vacation and a lot of people coming here because school is starting in the fall."

Baker said his administration has no plans to start stopping cars at the state line to ensure that people entering the state are complying with the order.

At Friday's press availability, the governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders discussed apparent anomalies that showed up in the commonwealth's COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday.

Among other things, the state's reporting system Thursday cited a drop of 181 in the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 — a decline of 34 percent from the previous day's total of 532.

Sudders blamed "hastily announced federal [reporting] guidelines that just went into effect" and said the state and hospital officials are "working nonstop to resolve any accuracy and integrity issues that may have resulted."

"When the federal government announced on the 15th of July that the reports for hospitals, the data elements, were going from 41 to 90, effective July 22, and changing a number of definitions and some data hospitals report is weekly data and some of it's daily," Sudders said. "Now there's 91 data fields, daily reporting from hospitals, one week's notice to get in place.

"Acute care hospitals in Massachusetts report to us, and we report to the federal government. That's a lot of data with [new] definitions and changing technical elements."

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Mount Greylock School Committee Votes Down Remote Learning Start to School Year

By Stephen Sports

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two months of input and advice from Mount Greylock’s working groups looking at the reopening of school were undone in four hours of discussion by the School Committee on Thursday night.

On a 6-1 vote, the committee directed interim superintendent Robert Putnam to submit to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education a radically different plan for the start of the year that moves more children into the school building more quickly than the administration was recommending.
Subject to approval by DESE and, not insignificantly, collective bargaining with the district’s unions, there will be no two-week period of fully remote learning as Putnam was proposing.
Putnam went into Thursday’s meeting with plans based on input from groups established in the spring and summer by him and his predecessor with the goal of getting the School Committee's blessing for the plan he has to submit to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Friday.
Putnam laid out a plan largely like the one he presented in a virtual town hall on Tuesday evening and told the School Committee he was looking for guidance.
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