Baker: Mass. ‘Trending in Positive Direction' Despite 1-Day Spike in Coronavirus

He also provided an update Thursday on the state's contact tracing initiative

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Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that Massachusetts is still "trending in a positive direction" despite a one-day spike in the state's coronavirus numbers.

Massachusetts recorded another 208 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths and an additional 1,754 individuals tested positive Wednesday for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

In a COVID-19 update, Gov. Charlie Baker talks steps to re-opening and contact tracing program.

Baker said the positive test rate was 28%, higher than the 10% to 20% rate the state had seen for the previous week. Still, he pointed out that still leaves the rate over the past seven days at 16%, lower than at any point in April.

He urged people not to put too much stock into one day numbers, which are often just an indication of where the state tested and who they tested on any given day.

Baker said the state's hospitalization rate remains around 5%, which has been steady for several days now.

Gov. Charlie Baker said a phased reopening of Massachusetts will not move forward until there is more progress on surge capacity and other key elements.

"We're making progress here, but I want to remind everyone we're still very much in the fight," he said. "Yesterday's numbers are evidence that despite some signs of trending in a positive direction, we still have a lot of work to do."

As the state continues to think about reopening some businesses, Baker said the effort to trace close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 takes on an increased importance.

He said about 1,600 people are now working as part of the contact tracing program, a collaboration with Partners in Health. They have already connected with 14,000 confirmed cases and 7,500 of their contacts since April 12.

Gov. Charlie Baker is urging people to participate in contact tracing if they get a call from the state, which he stressed is a key component in mitigating the spread of coronavirus.

Tracing is seen as a key part of efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. When the effort was launched, Baker said it was projected that each person with the coronavirus would have about 10 close contacts. But due to efforts to stay home and social distancing, the average number of contacts has turned out to only be about two.

Baker urged people to answer the phone if they receive a call from the tracing collaborative -- they come from a number with an 833 or 857 area code, he said, and the caller ID will say "MA COVID Team" -- and provide the relevant information.

"We need residents to answer the phone and talk to our contact tracers if called," he said.

The state also released a public service announcement Thursday in an effort to educate the public about the contact tracing initiative.

Baker on Wednesday said the state could begin reopening on May 18 -- when the closure of non-essential businesses is set to expire -- but only if the number of coronavirus patients at local hospitals continues to fall.

"Our goal, starting on May 18, is to begin reopening certain types of businesses in a limited fashion where it can be done more safely than under normal operations," he said. "But this phased-in process can't begin until we see sustained downward trends" in the battle against the coronavirus.

Baker said many hospitals are still relying on temporary spaces such as field hospitals and any reopening cannot take place until they are no longer treating patients under "surge" conditions.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday, the first day of the mandatory mask order, that there are signs that social restrictions are working to help curb the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, Massachusetts residents are now required to wear facial coverings in public.

Under the order, masks must be worn in grocery stores and pharmacies, on public transit and in cabs and ride-hailing services. The order also lets store owners deny entry to anyone not wearing a mask.

Those who refuse could face fines as high as $300.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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