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Keller @ Large: Gov. Baker Frustrated, Calls Remote Learning 'Less That Satisfactory Solution For Kids'

BOSTON (CBS) -- Gov. Charlie Baker spoke with WBZ-TV Political Analyst Jon Keller about various aspects of the state's fight against COVID-19.

The coronavirus metrics have been changed three times in the last month.

"The most recent change we made, we basically changed one thing which is we said we wanted to give communities credit for being high-testers. When you're dealing with a surge in a pandemic, you don't want anybody to under test for reason at all. We've been fortunate in Massachusetts to go from very small amounts of testing back in the spring to more in the summer to the point now where we've increased our testing on a daily basis to the point where we're the highest tester in the U.S. on a per capita basis every day by almost 50%," Baker explained.

New York did something similar, he added.

The state has raised the threshold for earning a high-risk red evaluation for coronavirus transmission as part of a campaign to get more kids into schools.

Baker said studies from in the U.S. and around the world should K-2 "schools aren't spreaders if people take the proper precautions. Those precautions are currently being implemented by school districts all over Massachusetts and are consistent with the guidance our administration developed and they work."

Teachers' unions say the low number of cases connected to schools has been because they are so careful and skeptical of in-person learning, but the push to get more kids in school is ill-advised.

"I wish at some point the unions would take a look at the science because the science at this point is pretty clear," said Baker.  "I'd be kidding if I said it doesn't frustrate me when I want school committees and superintendents do a spectacular job of developing protocol for how they can do in-person education and then not be able to sell it to the union and their community and end up with what I think they would argue is a less than satisfactory solution for kids."

According to Baker, the state of Rhode Island discovered that there were fewer infections rates among kids in communities with in-person learning than in districts with remote schooling. He said kids, especially teens, would be more likely to follow rules if they are in supervised environments, like school.

"COVID is with us, and I've been saying this for months, and the overwhelming majority of the growth in cases over the course of the last four or five months has not been because people in Massachusetts, where they play by the rules are spreading the virus, the problem here-- and by the way, all over the world and in the rest of the United States-- has been the informal casual, no mask, no distance, no rules behavior that people have engaged in because of something that's now a coined phrase called 'COVID fatigue.'"

The governors of New England and New Jersey announced Thursday they have reached an agreement to suspend interstate youth hockey among public and private schools through at least the end of the year.

When Keller asked why college hockey was not included in the suspension, Baker responded, "college hockey actually has the capacity to deliver on protocols that have to do with what happens off the ice which is really where we felt the biggest and most significant issues about risk were taking place."

"This is a good example of where our contact tracing was enormously effective because it picked up that it wasn't so much the actual act of playing hockey, it was all of the stuff that was around it and the best way that I can describe it Jon is to say that hockey tournaments, especially interstate hockey tournaments are like a party. They start at a rink at 7 o'clock in the morning, there are 25 teams there, there's literally sort of the equivalent of a tailgating going in the parking lot, virtually throughout the course of the day. The kids play maybe two or three games, when they are not playing, they're goofing around with each other in the way that kids do and that in many respects is the biggest issue associated with the youth hockey piece," the governor said.

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