Baker ‘Enormously Skeptical' of Report That Asymptomatic Spread of Coronavirus is Rare

Gov. Charlie Baker gave a coronavirus update a day after Massachusetts entered Phase 2 of reopening

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Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that he is "enormously skeptical" of Monday's report from the World Health Organization that the asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is rare.

"There's no question it's unprecedented, we're learning about it as we go, and people are changing some of the guidance," the governor said. "But I am enormously skeptical of such a broad generalization of anything when there's so much data that says the opposite."

WHO officials said Monday that the asymptomatic spread of coronavirus was "very rare," but later clarified that they were referring only to a few studies, not a complete picture. The remarks had raised confusion and questions among outside experts and health officials who have recommended and in some places required that people wear masks to try to prevent the virus from spreading.

Baker said he and other local public health officials remain convinced that asymptomatic carriers can spread the virus for several reasons. These include the fact that huge numbers of people who tested positive for coronavirus antibodies said they were never sick, as well as anecdotal information that asymptomatic workers in long-term care facilities spread the virus to patients.

"I continue to believe that based on the advice we're getting from health experts here, people who are asymptomatic who become symptomatic are absolutely capable of spreading the infection, as are many of the asymptomatic people who never show symptoms at all," he said.

In a COVID-19 update, Gov. Baker speaks from New Balance and highlights companies who pivoted to creating PPE.

Baker provided an update on the state's coronavirus battle after touring a New Balance facility in Lawrence that has converted its operations to produce masks amid the outbreak.

Phase 2 of Massachusetts' reopening began Monday, which Baker has called a "bright spot" for the state as it takes its next big step in recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who headed up the state's reopening board, called Monday "an important day for the Commonwealth."

"The start of Phase 2 is encouraging, though COVID-19 is still here," she said.

Not all Phase 2 businesses were able to reopen on Monday, as Baker broke down Phase 2 in two steps.

In the first step, which began Monday, retail stores, child care, day camps, lodging, youth sports and outdoor seated dining were allowed to reopen.

The second step, which won't begin until health officials have determined enough progress has been made, will allow indoor dining at restaurants, as well as the opening of nail salons, massage therapy and tanning salons.

Phase 2 also brings new guidance for health providers, who will be allowed to once again provide preventative services like annual exams. And it opens up new forms of outdoor recreation, including campgrounds, playgrounds and public pools.

The Baker administration had released guidelines for some of the businesses in Phase 2, the "cautious" stage of the state's four-phase reopening plan, already, before releasing additional details Saturday.

Despite the progress the state has made, store employees and customers still have to wear face masks and continue social distancing while they shop and take part in other activities. Businesses also still need to have plans to keep customers safe.

"We're coming up with a model that we believe can actually be done safely," Baker said Tuesday. "As we've seen in other places, they've started to see a significant rise in new cases. We're going to work hard to make sure that doesn't happen in Massachusetts."

Another 38 people with the new coronavirus in Massachusetts died and 193 more cases have been identified, health officials said Monday.

The state's death toll rose Monday to 7,353, while 103,626 people have now been diagnosed with the virus in the commonwealth, according to the state Department of Public Health's daily report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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