Coronavirus Death Toll Rises by 113 in Massachusetts, 1,512 New Cases

Gov. Charlie Baker has been watching the daily statistics closely ahead of the planned start of Massachusetts' reopening on Monday

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Massachusetts has seen another 113 people with the new coronavirus die and 1,512 new confirmed cases, health officials said Saturday.

The state's COVID-19 death toll now stands at 5,705, while 84,933 people total have tested positive for the virus, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Gov. Charlie Baker has been watching the daily statistics closely ahead of the planned start of Massachusetts' reopening on Monday. He's said that the trends in the daily figures, from the number of new cases to how many people remain hospitalized, were what have been guiding his decisionmaking process.

The number of new deaths reported each day has, on the whole, been lower in recent weeks, though with a few days at levels reminiscent of the surge in mid-April, including Wednesday and Thursday of this week. But the 110 deaths in Friday's report and the 113 on Saturday were a return to the trend.

Among the data that Baker has said he's been watching, encouraging trends continued Saturday. The rate of tests returning positive held in the low teens, where it's been for over a week. The hospitalization rate of all COVID-19 patients remains at 3% and there were 75 fewer people in the hospital than the day before, though there were about the same number of people in Massachusetts intensive care units, 747 compared to 749 the day before.

Still, leaders and health officials have encouraged the public not to draw long-term conclusions from one or two days' worth of data.

In a COVID-19 update, Gov. Charlie Baker urges companies to continue remote working to prevent spread of the virus.

Baker has revealed little about his four-phase approach to reopening the commonwealth, though he allowed on Friday that his order closing non-essential businesses would be extended a day to Monday to give his Reopening Advisory Board time to safely unveil its 4-phase approach to reopening the state.

It's unclear what businesses, if any, will be allowed to reopen Monday, though he said that 54 companies totaling 150,000 employees have agreed to extend their work-from-home policies for the remainder of spring and, in some cases, for the rest of the year. He said he also plans to address whether he will lift or extend the stay-at-home advisory on Monday.

Jon Hurst, the president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, says the 4,000-member group is eager to open. While they wait to hear the board's plan on Monday, some businesses are already preparing. 

“We've got a whole lot of confusion, a whole lot of questions and frustration,” Hurst said. 

“You look at the numbers, it’s still a little scary out there,” said Harold Tubman, co-owner of Circle Furniture.

With locations throughout the Boston area, Tubman hopes to be part of phase one. 

“We’ve cleaned the stores, we have whatever we need to keep everybody safe,” he said.

Tubman says if he gets the green light Monday, his stores can be open for partial business on Tuesday. He has already set up sanitation stations throughout stores. 

"We have masks," he said. "It’s going to be a new experience. Waiting on a customer wearing a mask.”

Hurst tells NBC10 Boston that many in the association are already worried they will lose out on the typical Memorial Day shopping spike.

“We hope that the governor will give them that lifeline,” he said.

Even with government help, 30-percent of his members tell Hurst their business may fail if not opened by the end of the month. Tubman says there is one more thing they need to open successfully: optimism.

“No matter what," he said, "I think the governor has to announce something positive for us.”

Massachusetts has for weeks been one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in the U.S., which Baker acknowledged Friday. It has the fourth-most cases among all states -- surpassed this week by Illinois, which his now experiencing its surge -- and fatalities.

Baker and other health officials have said Massachusetts' high tallies may be due the state testing among the most residents per capita in the country -- nearly 450,000 tests were conducted as of Friday, according to the Department of Public Health.

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