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Baker: Bay Staters Working from Home Could Make Nor'easter Less Problematic
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:40PM / Monday, February 01, 2021
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BOSTON — As the state geared up for the first major snowfall of 2021, the pandemic factored in -- but, for once, not always as a negative.
Gov. Charlie Baker and other administration officials met with the media Monday morning to talk about the commonwealth's preparedness for a Nor'easter expected to dump more than a foot of snow on Berkshire County.
Asked what was different about planning for this storm versus past weather events, Baker admitted that there is a small upside to dealing with a Nor'easter in a time when many Bay Staters already are doing their best to stay home as much as possible.
"The fact that so many people have the ability or have been primarily working remotely for a long period of time means that one of the things you worry about the most, which is everybody deciding to go home from work at exactly the same time all the plows hit the streets, is just not the kind of concern it would traditionally be," Baker said.
"The timing of this storm normally would make everyone nervous in the pre-COVID days because you would have a storm that would start around noon. What would happen is everyone would come into the office early to get as much of their day done as they possibly could. And everybody would be planning to leave between 1 and 3, which is exactly the same time snow would be picking up with respect to inches per hour and at exactly the same time that DOT would be pouring resources out onto the streets to plow."
That is not to say that COVID-19 pandemic is completely positive with respect to emergency preparations.
Acting Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler said that, like any other businesses, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority have to account for impacts to their workforces due to the novel coronavirus.
"Let's talk first about the MassDOT side," Tesler said. "We have good staffing for this event. We have been working with staff rotations and other measures to make sure we can fully staff and fully respond to this event.
"Like all organizations, we are impacted and taking all the necessary precautions and protocols. But we're confident we have the staffing for this event. Likewise, the MBTA does have staffing impacts due to the pandemic … but has sufficient staffing to respond to this."
In terms of the pandemic itself, the early February storm hit just as the commonwealth rolls out the next phase of its COVID-19 vaccination program.
Baker said the commonwealth's mass vaccination sites are doing their best to accommodate people who made appointments for Monday, but he said schedules would need to be readjusted.
"Most of these folks are going to try to reschedule people this week," Baker said. "It's going to depend to some extent on how much they can get done today and how much they need to reschedule later on.
"Fenway [Park] opened this morning and sent a message out to their folks saying: If you have an appointment, come on in and we'll do what we can to get you taken care of, even if you show up early relative to when your appointment is supposed to be.
"I think the big goal for the mass vax sites is to try to get as many of the folks who are scheduled today through, and they've been talking to people all morning about that. Folks who are nervous about traveling given the storm and all the rest, they will do what they can to get them rescheduled this week."
Baker said the commonwealth is working to make the process of making those appointments easier. It recently has added functionality to the website to help people search for sites geographically, and it is looking at other states' sites to incorporate what Baker described as "best practices" into Baker also said the commonwealth is working to stand up a call center, and he would have more information on that later this week.
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