By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker defended his decision to move the state forward in its reopening plan, and also the decision to require schools to begin resuming in-person learning starting in April.

Baker joined WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller for a one-on-one interview.

READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments

The governor was asked if he has any second thoughts on his decision to ease some COVID restrictions, given that in recent weeks there has been a slight uptick in some health metrics.

“No. When we reopened in the spring (of 2020), we did not see a signification surge in cases, and hospitalizations continued to decline until the second surge, which most people predicted would happen in the fall,” Baker said. “I expect that trend will continue here. We constantly go back and look at what we’ve done, and think about it as we go forward.”

Among those who raised alarm over the state’s plan to ease restrictions was Rochelle Walensky, director for the CDC. Baker said he is a “huge fan” of Walensky and has worked closely with her, but he believes the state is doing the right thing by moving forward to the final part of Phase 3 earlier this month, and now on to Phase 4 starting Monday.

“The thing to remember here is different parts of the country are in different places, both with respect to the virus and with respect to what their rules are with regard to what people can do and what they can’t do,” Baker said. “I would argue many changes we made in March were modest. They basically took us back to where we were at one point last fall.”

Baker said he believes the state has done the right thing by followng an “Incremental strategy.”

READ MORE: Plainville Firefighter In Coma After Contracting COVID-19

Keller @ Large: Gov. Charlie Baker On School Reopenings

 

Keller asked Baker about his recent clashes with the Massachusetts Teachers Association over the plan to bring schools back to in-person learning by April. Baker and the teachers unions have also disagreed over the best way to vaccinate educators.

“Teachers for the most part want to teach, and the data out there shows that it can be done safely,” Baker said. “So many have demonstrated that this can be done and done safely. I think that part of the debate is pretty much over.”

Baker said he believes the state has done enough to prioritize teachers in its vaccine plan. Educators had asked for their own batch of vaccines. Instead, teachers can make vaccine appointments through state sites and CVS locations, with four days being set aside for educators only at mass vaccine sites.

MORE NEWS: How To Get An Appointment When COVID Vaccines Open For Mass. Residents 16+

“We’ve prioritized teachers. We’ve given them special days that are just going to be for them. Tens of thousands of educators have been vaccinated over the last couple weeks. Tens of thousands are going to be vaccinated going forward,” Baker said. “And it’s important they get vaccinated. But I think in many ways we wanted to use a model that was already built, already developed and available for people. And it’s working for them.”

Jon Keller