Press Release

Press Release Governor Baker Activates National Guard to Support School Testing & Contingency Planning at DOC

For immediate release:
10/12/2021
  • Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
  • Governor's Press Office
  • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Executive Office of Education
  • Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
  • Massachusetts Department of Correction
  • Massachusetts National Guard

Media Contact for Governor Baker Activates National Guard to Support School Testing & Contingency Planning at DOC

Terry MacCormack, Press Secretary, Governor's Office

BOSTONToday, 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).

“We are grateful that the National Guard has stepped up once again, as they have throughout the COVID-19 response, to serve the Commonwealth where needed,” saidGovernor Charlie Baker. “Today’s activations will ensure that we have additional staffing support for our school testing programs to help kids stay safe and will allow DOC to respond to possible staffing shortages. While we are overall pleased with the progress we are seeing with Commonwealth employees submitting vaccination attestations, we will take whatever steps are necessary to safely run all correctional facilities.”

“The Guard has a long history of supporting our communities in times of need, and have answered the call time and time again during the pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We thank the servicemembers on these missions who will provide critical support to these two areas.”

School Testing Mission

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.

“We are very thankful to the men and women of the National Guard for their assistance to help school districts handle some operational challenges in order to continue to keep students, teachers and staff safe,” said Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. “The National Guard was there when we needed them to drive some children to school due to a nationwide bus driver shortage, and now we are thankful they are once again willing to serve the children of the Commonwealth with COVID-19 testing.”

To read the order, click here.

Department of Correction Contingency Planning

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, 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.

“DOC staff has performed remarkably throughout the pandemic. As we continue to navigate an unprecedented public health crisis, well-being and safety remain our priority, and we appreciate the large number of staff who have submitted their vaccination attestation forms ahead of the deadline,” said DOC Commissioner Carol Mici. “We are grateful for the Guard’s assistance in supporting the DOC’s mission as we continue to encourage our staff to comply with the vaccination mandate.” 

Under this contingency plan, Guard personnel will assume external functions which do not involve direct contact with inmates.  When Guard personnel assist with providing transportation to inmates, a correctional officer will accompany them. 

These missions will not interfere with the Massachusetts National Guard’s ability to respond to and assist in emergencies within the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts National Guard trains regularly with law enforcement, civilian, and other military agencies to provide a broad spectrum of services in support of security, logistics, disaster relief, and other missions. The Guard has a proven track record of success supporting civilian authorities. Their frequent side-by-side training with state and local first responders makes them well-suited for a variety of missions.

To read the order, click here.

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Media Contact for Governor Baker Activates National Guard to Support School Testing & Contingency Planning at DOC

Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito 

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and the Baker-Polito Administration are committed to serving the people of Massachusetts and making the Commonwealth a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Governor's Press Office 

Visit the Governor’s Press Office to learn about recent news from the administration, follow our happenings on social media, and for media contact information.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 

ESE oversees the education of children grades pre-k through 12 in Massachusetts, striving to ensure that all students across the Commonwealth succeed.

Executive Office of Education 

From pre-school to post-secondary education, the Executive Office of Education works to connect all Massachusetts residents with an education that creates opportunities.

While Massachusetts' students rank first in the nation on many educational measures, the Executive Office of Education strives to strengthen the foundations of education reform, empower schools and educators, and develop pathways to college and careers so all students in the Commonwealth can succeed, regardless of their zip code.

Executive Office of Public Safety and Security 

EOPSS is responsible for the policy development and budgetary oversight of its secretariat agencies, independent programs, and several boards which aid in crime prevention, homeland security preparedness, and ensuring the safety of residents and visitors in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts Department of Correction 

The Department of Correction oversees the state prison system, managing inmates at 15 institutions across the state.

Massachusetts National Guard 

The Massachusetts National Guard is an operational reserve of the United States Army and Air Force that provides ready, relevant and reliable troops and equipment to respond to natural disasters or other civil emergencies when activated by the Governor. The Guard also supports the federal military mission when activated to duty by the President of the United States.
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