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Hinds Calls State Vaccine Rollout A Failure, Says Reopening Can’t Be Rushed

State Senator Adam Hinds holds a microphone at an outdoor event.
Becki Joppru Connolly
State Senator Adam Hinds.

As Massachusetts carries out its troubled vaccine rollout and pushes to reopen businesses after a disastrous year of the COVID-19 pandemic, state legislators are working on carrying out their agendas on Beacon Hill. For Democratic State Senator Adam Hinds of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district, that includes a focus on the fragile economy, increasing funding for schools and childcare, and climate change. Hinds spoke with WAMC.

HINDS: We’re very deliberate to say, what is it that we want to do in the fight for to confront climate change. And so we have a menu of items related to sequestration, carbon sequestration, and particularly making use of our nature, our natural solutions and our forests that we have out here. So I'm very proud of that new set of bills that we're filing. And I also remain focused on income inequality and racial justice. And so those are two other pockets of bills that we filed this year and we'll put our shoulder and in the months ahead.

WAMC: I'm interested, Senator Hinds- From your vantage point, what are your thoughts on the reopening of Massachusetts? I've spoken with some of your fellow legislators who are very skeptical of the somewhat large steps being taken, for example, going to unlimited capacity in restaurants, things of that nature. What do you think about the reopening? Is this happening at a rate that you're comfortable with?

I would have to say that there are certain steps that we need to signal now for the summer. And so that's one thing. And I support that. You know, we've been doing work with our summer camps, we've been doing work with our cultural institutions to say you can expect to have an outdoor capacity of now 150, X number. That I think is important for ticket sales for marketing and alike. At the same time, I'm incredibly concerned that we really just open up, reopening too quickly. And we've seen the former Massachusetts head of infectious diseases at Mass General Hospital, Rochelle Walensky, who's now the head of the CDC, saying don't move too fast. And so when you have the experts saying, take caution, now's not the time to move forward, we need to see more progress with vaccinations, we need to see where the numbers are heading- I think I would listen to them first. And it is the case that we've seen some positive seven-day averages in both case numbers and hospitalizations and more. But I don't think we want to get too far ahead of that.

There's been a lot of static around the state's vaccine rollout initiatives and its troubled website. What are your thoughts on that process? And what's the tone been like on Beacon Hill, as Governor Charlie Baker has been subjected to oversight hearings on his administration's failures around the rollout?

You said it, the rollout has been a failure. And I say that only because, you know, the hundreds of emails and outreach phone calls that we get with just the confusion- And that starts to capture why this has been a problem. So we've seen changes in the communication, so we think that we're going in one direction one day only to change the next day. And even within that, the strategy is to move from hospitals and community centers towards mass vaccination sites, and then move back. It's just been chaotic. And I haven't even talked about the website and the like. And so I understand that we have the supply problem coming from the federal government, so, the doses actually coming into the state. And we receive right now 130,000 when the most recent phase made 1 million people eligible. I get that. But there's still some pretty basic equity steps and basic communication steps and basic community involvement steps so that we make sure that we can at least go forward in a coherent way that everyone understands where and when they'll be getting their vaccine, and that just hasn't happened.

The criticism around the very popular governor comes at a time where some Democrats are getting their names out in the in the conversation for governor when the election happens next year. Any thoughts on former Berkshire native Ben Downing’s bid for governor?

Well, he of course, is my immediate predecessor. And so you know, it's I think it's great when you have folks from across Commonwealth putting their names forward and so that's a good thing. You know, the more the merrier I think when it comes to democracy and I wish him well, he's really- He's a good friend and has done so much for Western Massachusetts. So that's a good thing.

When it comes to Baker- who, again, very popular leader even in a largely Democratic state- how much of this sticks to him in the election cycle next year? Because the frustration around the rollout and the vaccination process certainly seems very heated right now. But, you know, 12, 18 months from now, is this still going to be a problem for Governor Baker?

Right. It's, it is the case that he comes from the healthcare field, he has run on and continues to push the message that he's the manager-in-chief and, and in fact, entered the governor's office by complaining about healthcare related websites. And so it is ironic that that's then the biggest, maybe his Achilles heel right now heading into the next election cycle. So I think whoever the Democratic nominee [is] will have a lot of material to work with in challenging him. If he runs. I mean, we have a lot to see if he'll even decide to go for it, unprecedented third term

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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