BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced that the non-essential business closure order and stay-at-home advisory in Massachusetts have been extended through May 18 as coronavirus deaths continue to mount.
The order and advisory, which were both slated to expire on May 4, have been extended by an additional two weeks, Baker said during a news conference at the State House.
Restaurants will still be permitted to offer takeout but all non-essential businesses must keep their physical workplaces closed to all employees, customers, and the public until further notice.
Gatherings of 10 or more people will not be allowed until the May 18 advisory expires, Baker added.
Infectious disease experts believe the public’s compliance with the closure of non-essential businesses, the ban on large gatherings, and the stay-at-home advisory in Massachusetts have slowed the spread of coronavirus and helped hospitals keep up, according to Baker.
“Based on these facts on the ground, all these mechanisms need to remain in place so we can soon do more than just keep up and actually start to get ahead,” Baker said. “In addition to extending the closure of non-essential businesses, I’m also extending the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 3,153 reported coronavirus deaths in the Bay State with 58,302 confirmed cases.
Baker said that Massachusetts has finally “flattened the curve” but he also warned that the curve “will probably fall slowly.”
On numerous occasions, Baker has made it clear that Massachusetts needs to see a drastic drop in newly reported coronavirus cases and a significant increase in testing in order to reopen.
“We’re bringing every possible resource to bare in this fight to get back to the so-called new normal,” Baker said. “We became the first state in the nation to launch a tracing program that will serve as a powerful tool to spot and stop new cases. The mobility data suggests that our state’s effort to close brick-and-mortar businesses and our calls for social distancing have played a significant role in slowing the spread of the virus.”
Testing data suggests that the state is trending in the right direction, according to Baker.
“We have also expanded testing and our daily average new tests this week have hovered around 8,000-10,000,” Baker said. “This far exceeds the goal that we set of 3,500 tests a day.”
While data also shows hospitalization rates have plateaued in the Bay State, they have not yet started to fall.
“This is critically important not to just Massachusetts, but to the guidance that’s been recommended to every other state in the country,” Baker said of the number of hospitalizations.
Baker also announced the creation of a 17-member advisory board that will be led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and tasked with formulating a phased plan to reopen the economy.
“When the data suggests that COVID-19 is diminishing, we’ll want to have that plan ready to start recovering the economic ground that we’ve given up during this fight,” Baker said. “This group will work on a plan that occurs in phases. They’ll help industries navigate public health guidance and implement measures for the news rules of the road. We’ve asked this group to produce the plan by May 18.”
Baker said the board’s “very qualified” members will examine several different business models as they work to implement a thoughtful plan. Healthcare experts will also be closely monitoring COVID-19 hospitalization rates, the percentage of new cases, and the status of community hot spots.
“We’re incredibly eager to move on from this phase of our lives but if we act too soon, we could risk a spike in infections that could force our state to revert to serious restrictions again,” Baker said. “This scenario would be far worse for our economy, our communities, and for our people.”
Baker noted that his administration will be working with neighboring states to develop a reopening strategy that makes “sense for us and the rest of the Northeast.”
Baker added that he understands that pushing the reopening date back by two weeks is not what residents wanted to hear.
“I’m just as frustrated as everybody else that I can’t visit my father or give many of the small businesses that I talk to all the time that are struggling to survive the OK to open up now, ” Baker said. “We all look forward to stepping in front of this podium to tell you that we’re starting to open for business. I know we’ll get there soon but we have to be smart about how we do it and recognize and understand that there are risks associated with going back too soon.”
Baked vowed that the reopening advisory board will do “incredible” work so “swift, smart and appropriate” action can be taken when the data indicates it’s safe to do so.
All public and private schools in Massachusetts are closed for the rest of the school year.
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