Today, Governor Charlie Baker issued orders activating up to 450 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to help support two missions. The Governor’s orders activate up to 200 members of the Guard to support COVID-19 testing in K-12 schools throughout the Commonwealth and up to 250 members to offset potential staffing shortages at the Department of Correction (DOC).
The Commonwealth has developed a nation-leading COVID-19 testing program to help K-12 students remain in school safely. Over 2,200 schools have currently signed up to participate in at least one of three types of testing: test and stay, symptomatic testing, and pooled testing. Since the beginning of the school year, results from pooled testing show pool positivity rates of less than 1 percent, and test and stay, which is used to test close contacts, has saved approximately 25,000 school days for students who would have otherwise had to quarantine.
As these testing programs continue to ramp up, up to 200 members of the National Guard will be activated to expand testing support at schools across the Commonwealth. The Guard members will begin training this week and begin administering COVID-19 testing in selected schools on Monday, October 18.
Governor Baker will also activate up to 250 Massachusetts National Guard personnel as a contingency measure in anticipation of possible staffing shortages at DOC. This week Guard personnel will begin training to assist the DOC, if necessary, with transportation and exterior security functions.
In close coordination with public safety officials, the DOC continues preparations for the possibility of a reduction in DOC staffing levels due to non-compliance with Executive Order 595 <https://www.mass.gov/executive-orders/no-595-implementing-a-requirement-for-covid-19-vaccination-for-the-commonwealths-executive-department-employees>, which requires all Executive Department employees to demonstrate proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by October 17. Activating the Guard in advance of the deadline allows for Guard personnel to immediately begin job-specific training and assume roles, if needed, in the event of a reduction in DOC staffing levels.
The availability of support from the National Guard will safeguard DOC operational continuity and continued access to services and programming for inmates. The DOC is further prepared to augment correction staff with the return of retired correction officers in addition to Guard personnel.