Lawmakers hail governor’s emergency declaration

Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2020 11:38:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on Tuesday in an effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, a move that was cheered by a number of area lawmakers.

“I think he was right to do it,” said Rep. Dan Carey, D-Easthampton. “This thing is spreading so fast.”

Approval of the governor’s action was also expressed by Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.

The governor’s emergency declaration gives him additional powers that he doesn’t have normally, such as canceling large events and gaining quick access to buildings for storage.

The effort to stop the coronavirus, also known as the COVID-19 virus, from spreading has already led to Smith College and Amherst College announcing that students wouldn’t be coming back after spring break and the cancellation of the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade.

Baker cut short a ski vacation in Utah to deal with the mounting crisis as the number of coronavirus cases reported in the state more than doubled to 92. Of that number, 70 are connected to a meeting held by biotech company Biogen at a downtown Boston hotel.

Comerford serves as co-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Public Health, which held an oversight hearing last week on the state’s preparedness for the virus. She said she has briefed the leadership in the Legislature about funding needs and legislation for combating the virus, and that she’s in close contact with Department of Public Health officials and the governor’s office. She will also be briefing the Senate’s Democratic caucus on Wednesday.

“I’m really deep in this,” said Comerford, who also noted that she’s been in contact with her constituents.

Comerford said the commonwealth needs to scale up a proactive approach to prevention, containment, and mitigation for the viral outbreak and that the state of emergency will enable this.

“This is a time to plan and respond, not panic,” she said.

Domb spent most of her working life combating the HIV epidemic, and she said she knows what it’s like when an epidemic is not responded to adequately.

“He did the right thing,” she said, of the governor’s declaration.

She said the declaration gives the executive branch in the state flexibility, and that it also signals to people in the commonwealth that the government is paying attention.

Domb said she’s been in contact with stakeholders in her district such as hospitals, college administrators, those working in public transit and local officials and that she’s been sharing with them DPH communications to legislators on the outbreak.

Carey also noted his communication efforts, saying that he’s served as a liaison between governments and schools in his district and the state government.

He also said that the situation is “changing by the hour.”

Carey and Sabadosa both noted the $15 million response to the coronavirus that the Legislature will be taking up next week.

“The details of that are still in the works,” Carey said.

Sabadosa said she would be focusing on making sure that funding in the bill was distributed with equity in mind and that the most vulnerable are focused on, such as those living in communal living situations like prisons, nursing homes and shelters.

Sabadosa, a passionate advocate for Medicare for All, also said that having such a system in place would be beneficial in dealing with coronavirus.

“If we had Medicare for all, a lot of these things would have been already taken care of,” she said.

She said that if you want to stop the spread of infectious diseases, health care needs to be accessible and affordable.

Bera Dunau can be reached at


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