GOV. CHARLIE BAKER indicated on Friday that he is willing to accept the fact his administration generally advocates for six feet of social distancing in most public spaces while the MBTA is using the World Health Organization’s three-foot standard when assessing crowding on subways and buses.
“I think it depends on the circumstances and the situation,” Baker said at a State House press conference. “I think if you’re going to be in a place for a long time indoors, the six feet issue is the right way to go. But if the WHO thinks three feet on public transportation, as long as you’re wearing a mask and everything else, I’m not going to argue with them.”
When it was pointed out that the US Centers for Disease Control recommends six feet of social distancing on public transit, Baker threw up his arms and said: “Welcome to the coronavirus.”
The governor said it’s not easy sorting out all the conflicting advice on the coronavirus, particularly when it changes so frequently. He recalled that many people used to think taking the temperature of people was enough to determine whether they had COVID-19 symptoms. Then, he said, it was assumed that there was an incubation period of a couple days where people had the virus but exhibited no symtoms. Now, many assume a large percentage of those infected can have the virus and never exhibit any symptoms.
“One of the greatest challenges we all face as public officials is the changing nature of what people believe to be true, what people believe works best, and how to frame that into a set of policies on a playing field where knowledge is constantly changing and moving,” he said.
The issue surfaced when the MBTA began making preparations for how to serve more customers as the state economy reopens. T officials say they intend to add additional service if they determine buses or subway cars are becoming too crowded. To measure crowding, T officials are using a standard from the World Health Organization that calls for three feet of distance between customers rather than the CDC guideline that calls for six feet.
Earlier this week at a press conference at Maverick Station on the Blue Line, Baker said he hadn’t read the WHO guidelines and would have no comment until he did. Baker was asked about the issue again on Friday at a press conference where he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito released guidelines for reopening restaurants. Those guidelines called for six feet of distance between restaurant tables, initially outside.