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Governor Charlie Baker fought back tears Wednesday as he reflected on the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 16,000 Massachusetts residents, shuttered thousands of businesses, and upended virtually every facet of daily life.

Baker spoke haltingly as he approached the lectern for a news briefing after a tour of a Shawmut facility in West Bridgewater that is making personal protective equipment in collaboration with the Fallon Company.

He told reporters he was speaking on the “one-year anniversary of the signing of the ...” before pausing to collect his composure. Baker continued, “... of the executive order here in Massachusetts that put the Commonwealth into a state of emergency.”

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On March 10, 2020, Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts that placed travel restrictions on the 42,000 employees of the state’s executive branch and banned out-of-state work-related travel and in-person conferences and seminars.

About two weeks later, Baker ordered all nonessential businesses to close their doors and urged the state’s nearly 7 million people to stay home.

Those first few months were particularly trying, Baker recalled.

“When I think about what we went through in those first few months to try to find PPE, in a world where every global supply chain had basically been frozen because of the pandemic, and the difficulties associated with getting very basic protective equipment to our health care workers, our first responders, our long-term care workers, and so many others in Massachusetts who were looking for it, this is really in some respects a very special moment, and a happy anniversary in some ways for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Baker said.

He recalled a conversation with Joe Fallon of the Fallon Company, in which the developer said “Hey, I’m a developer. That’s what I do. I build buildings. I don’t know the first thing about how to actually create an N95 [mask] manufacturing facility,” Baker said.

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“But I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the great centers of research and medicine and development on planet Earth, and have us struggle ever again to have to deal with the issues associated with PPE and protecting our workers,” Baker recounted.

Speaking over applause from the assembled workers, Baker said to Fallon, “I remember you saying that to me.”


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