Will the Mass. Economy Be Ready to Begin Reopening on May 18?

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that coronavirus data is trending in the right direction but he wants to see at least 14 days of continued progress

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that the state continues to see positive signs in its fight against the coronavirus, but he wouldn't say for sure if the phased reopening of the economy will begin on May 18, the day his non-essential business closures are set to expire.

After touring Merrow Manufacturing, a Fall River company that has shifted to the production of medical gowns, Baker said Monday's daily update included the lowest rate of new tests that came back positive in several weeks and that patients hospitalized for the highly infectious virus are on a "pretty steady downward trend."

Governor Baker said Monday's daily update included the lowest rate of new tests that came back positive in several weeks

"We're still very much in the fight against the virus, but I think it's encouraging for everyone to see progress," he said.

However, he stressed that officials "need to see these numbers continue to fall" as the state progresses nearly two months into the public health emergency.

Asked if the trends needed to continue for two weeks before even a phased reopening of the state's economy can begin, Baker replied, "No one thinks you need less than 14 days, let's put it that way."

A Quincy Walmart store is closed after 11 employees tested positive for coronavirus and one died.

The deadline for the state's reopening advisory board to put forward a plan for how the state's businesses will resume operations is May 18, but both Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have said the reopening will be a gradual one, guided by health data and safety measures.

Baker also warned Monday that the economy won't be “off to the races” on that date. He said reopening plans will include social distancing and cleaning protocols for businesses.

The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths reported in Massachusetts Monday were the lowest they've been in weeks, though more than 3,500 people remained hospitalized with the respiratory disease.

The Department of Public Health reported 1,000 new cases, 86 new deaths, and 3,539 hospitalizations, down from 3,875 hospitalized COVID-19 patients a week ago.

Baker signed an order last week making the use of face masks in public places mandatory starting on Wednesday. He said Tuesday that his sense is that people in general are adopting the use of masks.

"My expectation is that people are going to do this," he said. "And they're going to do it because it's the right thing to do, not just for themselves but the people they're close to." At the same time, he said he understands that 100% compliance "is probably not a reasonable expectation."

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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