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Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito speak about the state's 'GetBackMass' campaign on Monday.

Commonwealth Urges Residents to Do What It Takes to 'Get Back'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — The Baker administration on Monday announced a new COVID-19 advertising campaign statewide and a targeted effort to reach residents through community groups.
 
The hashtag "GetBackMass" is part of the latest public awareness campaign launched by the commonwealth. The focus of television and digital advertising will be to promote the idea that "normal" activities can only resume after the threat of the novel coronavirus has subsided.
 
"The GetBackMass campaign is the result of data-driven research to better understand public sentiments about COVID," Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said at Gov. Charlie Baker's regular pandemic press briefing. "Based upon the research, folks were attributed as 'COVID cautious' or 'life is normal.' About 52 percent of the folks interviewed were 'COVID cautious' and 48 percent were 'life is normal.'
 
"The motivator test included self-oriented motivations, how to protect others, social pressure motivations and doing what it takes to reduce risks. From the data, the most receptive messages from the overwhelming majority of people interviewed indicated concern for the health and safety of loved ones and the desire to put the safety of loved ones before their own. They want to enjoy time with their loved ones and return to experiences they enjoy together — from traveling, to birthday parties to hugs."
 
To that end, the televised public health message rolled out Monday features Bay Staters talking about the things they want to "get back" to, like partying, going to Fenway Park or taking their kids on play dates. It then quickly transitions to images of the same Massachusetts residents donning their masks as the voiceover reminds audiences, "We're not there yet."
 
"We can get back, Mass," the ad concludes. "Learn how at mass.gov/getback."
 
The campaign's launch coincides with the start of the traditional holiday season, and Baker used Monday's press availability to once again drive home the point that Massachusetts residents need to celebrate the holidays — starting Thursday — differently than in years past.
 
"The biggest single driver of spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts these days is household spread," Baker said. "Big gatherings, for long periods of time, indoors, during this holiday season — people being familiar and casual with people they're familiar with — is exactly the type of thing that will spread the virus.
 
"You can't afford to do Thanksgiving and the holidays the same way we've done it in years past. We will certainly get through this. There's hope on the horizon with respect to some very successful clinical trials on some powerful vaccines, including some being developed by researchers and scientists here in Massachusetts. But, right now, protecting your family and your friends and your neighbors and your commonwealth should be your primary thought with respect to this holiday season."
 
Sudders detailed another new front in the commonwealth's battle to educate residents about the importance of respecting the virus.
 
The Department of Public Health announced $650,000 in grants to community-based and faith-based organizations to help prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities of color. Twenty organizations received grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.
 
None of the organizations were in the Berkshires, but two were in Western Massachusetts, the One Holyoke Community Development Corp. and the New North Citizens Council in Springfield.
 
Sudders said it was a question of finding the ways to reach residents through trusted channels.
 
"We felt that the focus was a health equity lens and COVID," she said. "As part of the community enforcement and intervention teams, on the weekly calls with all those communities, we said we had a grant application going out and really wanted faith-based organizations and community organizations that are deeply embedded in their communities, that may not trust government, that may not trust other sources of information.
 
"We're trying to reach these messages to all communities, and there are different ways communities connect. And we know the disparate impact of COVID on certain communities. … What might be, from my perspective, the right way to communicate with a community is different than if you connect with a community organization that is very embedded with the community ... and have them take what we want —  which is to help people understand what COVID is, the risks of COVID — and trust them to communicate that message."
 
On the testing front, the commonwealth reported 110,000 molecular tests for the new coronavirus on Sunday and a seven-day positivity average of just more than 3 percent, Baker said.
 
Starting Monday, the state is expanding its Abbot BinaxNOW testing program — which was rolled out for K-12 education last week — to include long-term care facilities.
 
The BinaxNOW tests should be administered to visitors entering such facilities, Sudders said.
 
"Those who test positive should be treated as a positive COVID case, be declined entry to the long-term care facility and be encouraged to contact their healthcare provider," she said. "Those who test negative may be allowed to enter the facility, provided they meet the other screening criteria we have in place — they're not exhibiting any COVID-19-like symptoms — and comply with other in-person visitation requirements, such as wearing masks and distancing."

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Up to 6 Inches of Snow Predicted for Berkshires

The Berkshires are expected to get hit with up to 6 inches of snow as the leading edge of a 1,500-mile storm system moves in the region on Tuesday. 
 
The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., has issued a winter weather advisory for the Berkshire and Southern Vermont beginning noon Tuesday through 10 a.m. on Wednesday. 
 
NWS is forecasting total accumulations of 3 to 6 inches with up to 8 inches possible in some higher-elevation portions of eastern New York. Snowfall could fall as fast as an inch an hour during Tuesday afternoon. 
 
The city of Pittsfield has already declared a snow emergency from 7 a.m. on Tuesday until 7 p.m. on Thursday. City residents are reminded of the alternate parking scheme for snow emergencies: park on the even side of the street from 7 a.m. Tuesday through 7 a.m. on Wednesday; then switch to the odd side through 7 a.m. on Thursday.
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