Baker: Coronavirus hospitalizations ‘decreasing,’ reopening advisory board making ‘significant progress’

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday that coronavirus hospitalizations have been declining across the Commonwealth as the state’s reopening advisory board continues to make “significant progress” in putting together a gradual, multi-stage process of lifting restrictions on businesses and activities.

As the state continues to ramp up its COVID-19 testing capacity, health officials are seeing daily positive test rates under 20 percent with a decrease in hospitalizations, Baker said during a news conference at the State House.

“COVID hospitalizations have actually been decreasing in the past several days with very few spikes and new admissions,” Baker said. “The number of patients dealing with COVID in the ICU is also dropping.”

As of Sunday, there were 3,617 coronavirus patients who remained hospitalized in Massachusetts with 904 individuals in the ICU, according to Baker.

“There are obviously still thousands of people who are being hospitalized due to this virus but the numbers are starting to trend in the right direction,” Baker said.

On numerous occasions, Baker has made it clear that Massachusetts needs to see a drastic drop in newly reported coronavirus cases and an increase in testing capacity in order to reopen the economy.

The reopening advisory board, which is being led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, has “hit the ground running” and “significant progress” was made over the weekend in compiling feedback and ideas from various industries, according to Baker.

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“Over the last week and through the weekend, the board virtually met with stakeholders from 23 different industry associations and community coalitions,” Baker said. “Together these groups represent over 100,00 businesses and more than 1.4 million workers from across the Commonwealth.”

Baker said the board spoke with groups that represent retail, high-tech, life sciences, restaurants, travel, tourism, banking, lodging, recreation, and construction businesses.

The board is slated to meet with gaming, labor, museum, and professional sports representatives this week, Baker added. They are also reviewing more than 475 submissions of written testimony on ideas and suggestions on how to safely reopen.

“Each group has discussed the key issues that they believe their industry or their region will face,” Baker said. “They have emphasized specific guidance and information that they’re looking for from the Commonwealth and from their local governments in order to safely reopen.”

Baker reminded everyone that the state is planning to reopen in phases “when the time is right.”

“The only sectors of the economy that can implement the appropriate health guidance will be opening in the first phase,” Baker said. “There won’t be anyone firing a starting gun on May 18.”

Baker explained that childcare and public transportation will be “key enablers” to ensure a safe and successful reopening. Board members are said to be in the process of developing steps to reopen those sectors.

Baker said Massachusetts will be able to resume “more and more activities” when public health data indicates that COVID-19 “is on a sustained downward trend.”

In the coming weeks, Baker said the state expects to finalize “concrete plans” on what each phase of reopening will look like, where certain activities and businesses fit into each phase, as well as general business guidance on social distancing, personal protection, and cleaning protocols that all businesses will need to adhere to upon reopening.

Baker’s non-essential business closure order and stay-at-home advisory remain in effect through May 18.

Starting on Wednesday, any resident or worker who can not safely practice social distancing in public must wear a mask or face-covering. Violators could face a $300 fine.

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