Baker Begs Residents Not to Travel for Holidays, Hints at More Restrictions

The governor said he hopes to have more to say about the possibility of additional guidance later this week

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Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that he's "basically begging" Massachusetts residents not to travel for Christmas while also hinting at the possibility of additional restrictions to come.

"Let me just be as clear as I can be," he said. "We're basically begging everyone to stay within their immediate household over the course of this holiday season. We're not asking people to do this forever, we're asking them to do it for the next 10 or 12 days."

Baker said cases spiked dramatically in the state in the wake of Thanksgiving, and a second surge could put the health care system in danger of being overwhelmed.

"We can have the kind of celebrations we want to have around Christmas and New Year's next year," he said. "But we simply can't afford to have another spike, one of the largest in the United States, take place after the Christmas holiday while we're still dealing with the spike that came from Thanksgiving."

The governor said his staff is currently discussing the possibility of additional guidance or restrictions around holiday travel and he expects to have more to say on that subject later in the week.

"Every option is on the table," he said.

After the Thanksgiving COVID-19 case surge and uptick in hospitalizations, Baker warns Mass. residents not to travel over the next 10-12 days.

As Baker hinted that more restrictions could come to minimize the impact of another surge, Massachusetts residents were rushing to get COVID tests Monday night ahead of their holiday travel, but it turned out to be time consuming task for a lot of people.

There were hours long wait times at testing sites like the one at Revere High School.

Nancy Wong said she waited two to three hours, while Kerri Smith said she had to wait an extra hour after finding out she was in the wrong line.

"It's very long, longer than expected," Wong said.

"Crazy, I can't wait till the at home test kit," Smith said. "That would be a lot better."

With all the demand for COVID tests, Baker says the state will boost supply.

"First of all we are doing more testing now than we were two weeks ago, and we'll be doing more testing two weeks from now than we are doing today," Baker said.

But the governor also made it clear that while testing is helpful, it's best if everyone just stays home, or the state's healthcare system could be in serious danger.

Massachusetts residents are rushing to get tested ahead of holiday travel. With all the demand for tests, Gov. Charlie Baker says the state will boost supply. However, the governor also made it clear Monday that while testing is helpful, it's best for everyone to just stay home.

"We're not asking people to do this forever," Baker said. "We're asking them to do it over the next 10 or 12 days."

Meanwhile, everyone is urged to make extra efforts to stay safe this holiday season.

"Just better to make sure that you are okay and that you're not passing this [the virus] to other people," Andres Ramirez said.

Baker also said Monday that he's pleased that it appeared Congress was close to approving a new stimulus package that will include unemployment funding, rental assistance and support for small businesses.

"Obviously, we're hoping and anticipating that Congress will swiftly approve this and get it done and get it to the president so he can sign it," he said. "This support is a welcome present for so many people here in Massachusetts and around the country who need it to help build a bridge between here and the successful implementation of a widespread, safe and effective vaccine."

Congress passed the $900 billion pandemic relief package late Monday night.

The first batch of the coronavirus vaccine from Cambridge-based Moderna began arriving in Massachusetts Monday to be distributed to hospitals across the state.

The coronavirus vaccine from Cambridge-based Moderna is arriving in hospitals across the country Monday, joining Pfizer's in the nation's arsenal against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Massachusetts is slated to receive 120,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine over the next few weeks.

Baker also announced Monday that nearly $49 million in grants to over 1,000 small businesses will be awarded through the state's COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program.

He said all of the organizations receiving grants were owned by women, minorities, veterans, individuals with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ community. But 10 times as many businesses applied for the money.

"As a business owner, it's like, what am I going to do? How am I going to survive?," said Forrest Wellington, one of many whose application was denied this time.

Wellington, who owns a roller rink in Taunton, just had to shutdown his business again because of the statewide rollback.

"We're scared he's going to roll back to phase 2 part 2 soon," Wellington said. "What are we going to do if he rolls back? He's not giving us grant money."

Baker says he recognizes the need exceeds the resources. He added more money for small businesses to the supplemental budget and he's calling on state lawmakers to pass a bill that would provide more relief.

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker details the rollout of phase 1 COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the state.

More than 100 new COVID-19 deaths were recorded over the weekend, as the state's total caseload grew by 8,157.

The state Department of Public Health reported 47 new deaths among confirmed COVID-19 patients on Saturday and another 60 on Sunday, bringing the pandemic's death toll in Massachusetts to 11,465, or 11,717 when the 252 deaths among people with probable cases of the respiratory disease are added in.

Since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed here on Feb. 1, 324 days ago, a total of 311,090 people have tested positive, including 4,162 whose results were reported by the DPH on Sunday and 3,995 on Saturday. More than one-tenth of the total number of confirmed cases -- 31,516 -- were logged over the past week, as the state continues to grapple with a second surge of infections.

As of Sunday, the Department of Public Health considered 82,617 people to have active cases of COVID-19, and 1,919 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized. That's down slightly from the 1,927 who were hospitalized as of Saturday and well above the 1,191 hospitalizations on Dec. 1. The seven-day average positivity test rate was 5.78% on Sunday.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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