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Baker warns residents ‘don’t be careless,’ cites hike in positive COVID-19 tests

Gov. Baker urges residents to continue safe practices
On Thursday Governor Baker continued to urge residents to wear masks and stay 6 feet from others.
Governor Charlie Baker spoke at his daily press conference at the Pfizer manufacturing facility in Andover on Thursday.
Governor Charlie Baker spoke at his daily press conference at the Pfizer manufacturing facility in Andover on Thursday.Stuart Cahill

Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday that the state has recently seen a slight increase in positive COVID-19 tests, as well as a few instances of clusters related to parties and people not complying with mask and social distancing rules.

Baker, speaking during his daily press briefing following a tour of a Pfizer facility in Andover, said the seven-day positive test rate is currently at about 2 percent. He said there have been a few “community outbreaks” related to social gatherings and people ignoring guidelines on prevention.

“I can’t express this enough,” Baker said. “Don’t be careless or complacent. Wear a face covering, socially distance” and maintain good hygiene. “We must do our part as individuals, as families, and as communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

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The governor conceded that he may come off as scolding when he delivers such regular warnings.

“I know I sound like an old man talking to my children when I say this, but a big part of this is about the decisions and the behavior of all of us as individuals,” Baker said.

He also praised Pfizer for the biotech’s ongoing efforts to develop a vaccine for the contagion.

Pfizer officials said they hope to enroll up to 30,000 people in a vaccine trial, and that data in the early stages of development has been promising. Any vaccine would have to ultimately be approved by the FDA before it could go on the market.

United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced last week that the Trump administration will pay Pfizer nearly $2 billion for a December delivery of 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it’s developing. The US could buy another 500 million doses under the agreement, Azar said.

“Now those would, of course, have to be safe and effective” and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Azar said during a recent appearance on Fox News. The agreement is part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, under which multiple COVID-19 vaccines are being developed simultaneously.

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Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have announced separately that the agreement is with HHS and the Defense Department for a vaccine candidate the companies are developing jointly. It is the latest in a series of similar agreements with other vaccine companies.

“We truly believe science will win,” said Meg Ruesch, a Pfizer vice president of research and development, during Thursday’s briefing in Andover. “We are truly contributing to breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.”

Pfizer said last week that it and BioNTech are on track to potentially manufacture more than 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021, a figure Ruesch reiterated Thursday, saying it was subject to “technological success and regulatory authorization.”

Baker praised Pfizer for “working around the clock to bring breakthrough solutions to patients” and noted that Massachusetts, with its robust biotech and medical sectors, has always been a leader in innovation.

“It’s all pretty remarkable but not surprising that we have this type of research and development for this global pandemic right here in the Commonwealth,” Baker said.

He was also asked about President Trump’s suggestion earlier Thursday via Twitter that the November presidential election could be delayed.

Trump had tweeted Thursday morning, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

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Baker voiced opposition to the idea during the briefing.

“We’ve had elections in the midst of world wars,” Baker said. “We’ve had elections in the midst of civil war. We’ve had elections many times in this country during terrible, awful circumstances.”

Baker said “there’s no reason why this one can’t happen when it’s supposed to happen.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.