GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Tuesday indicated the state is nearing the end of the COVID-19 surge, but he implored the people of Massachusetts not to pull back on social distancing.
“This is a little like the third or fourth quarter and we’re holding our own here,” he said. “Don’t let the virus win the game. Play it all the way to the end.”
Baker announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the year, but he declined to say whether his guidance on staying at home and shutting down businesses would follow a similar timetable. He also indicated he may not follow White House guidelines on when states should consider reopening.
The Trump administration has recommended 14 days of a steady downward trend in new COVID-19 cases, a ramp-up in testing capability, and no need for health care rationing in hospitals. The number of new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts has declined the last five days, hospitals seem to have sufficient beds, and testing continues to increase.
Baker said he is focused on new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which he said are increasing. Pressed on what data would influence his eventual decision to reopen the state, he said he was looking at a lot of things. He said he would rely on what his advisors tell him, what he hears from neighboring states in the northeast, and what makes the most sense for Massachusetts.
“The data show we’re very much in the grips of a pandemic here in Massachusetts,” Baker said, noting the surge that was projected to end on Monday is continuing. “People need to dig deep and stay put.”
Baker patted the state on the back a bit for flattening the COVID-19 curve of cases and keeping the overall numbers down. As of Monday, 39,643 people had tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,809 had died, more than half of them in long-term care facilities.
“While it is bad, there’s no question about that, it’s nowhere near as bad as lot of people said it was going to be at the beginning,” Baker said.
The governor projected between 705 and 2,580 deaths from the virus and between 47,000 and 172,000 cases.
The governor acknowledged how eager people are to return to some level of normalcy. As he often does, he brought up his father who lives in a long-term care facility.
“I want to see my dad, OK?” he said. “This is difficult. It’s also purposeful and in many cases and in many ways it is work. The last thing we should do is give this insidious and somewhat invisible virus the opportunity to breathe on a go-forward basis.”