Whenever it's safe for the Massachusetts stay-at-home order to be lifted, residents will likely still need to keep wearing masks and face-coverings in public to help stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker said Saturday.
Baker hasn't made a decision yet about whether Massachusetts can begin to reopen starting May 4, when the current stay-at-home order is currently set to expire. But he gave an insight into his thinking about the process at a news briefing at a Hasbro toy factory near Springfield.
"I certainly believe that, whatever the rules of the road look like for reopening, masks and face coverings are going to be a big part of it," he said, adding, "have to be."
On Friday, Baker emphasized that Massachusetts remains in the coronavirus surge and that it's expected to continue for some time: "We need to recognize that this insidious and awful virus is still making people in the state of Massachusetts very sick."
At that briefing, he was also asked if he plans to extend the stay-at-home advisory and business closure past May 4. He said then that it's too soon to say because the virus is unpredictable, and that he wants to see a strong downward trend in new hospitalizations or people testing positive.
Baker on Saturday re-emphasized the need for a steady drop in testing numbers for the state to reopen, as well as clear "rules of engagement" for how it would do so. He said he would be addressing the latter part in the coming week.
But he also noted that the date of May 4 was mainly picked to convey to people that Massachusetts wouldn't be reopening soon after the stay-at-home order was issued.
"We wanted to make clear that people didn't think we would be reopening tomorrow or the day after or the day after," Baker said.
He also noted that the surge in cases, which continued Saturday, came later than initially thought.
While Baker usually gives his coronavirus from the Massachusetts State House on weekdays, on weekends he's been heading into the field to tour key sites in the coronavirus fight.
Last Saturday, joined by the U.S. Army's top general, he toured the Boston Hope field hospital in the city's convention center. The week before, he visited a Somerville facility that cleans medical-grade masks, dramatically extending their useful lives.
This Saturday, Baker was visiting the Hasbro facility that had been making games like Monopoly and Clue in East Longmeadow, which has pivoted to making tens of thousands of plastic face shields for health care workers each week.
"We are incredibly grateful to Hasbro and its team for the work that it's doing," Baker said.
The facility is in Hampden County, which has the highest rate of coronavirus deaths in the state, 63 per 100,000 residents, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Overall the state's death toll stands at 2,556 as of Friday.
Coronavirus Infection Rates in Mass. Cities and Towns
Friday's coronavirus report from the Department of Public Health showed a massive increase in people who tested positive for the virus, which was due in part to a reporting error from Quest Diagnostics, a commercial lab that has been partnering with Massachusetts in its push to dramatically increase testing.
Baker addressed the error, saying that the delay in reporting was only to states, not to the people who tested positive themselves, and emphasized that they've been doing a "terrific job" on issues the state is working on.