Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday defended his decision to extend the state's stay-at-home advisory and non-essential business closures for an additional two weeks.
The governor announced Tuesday that he was extending the shutdown from May 4 until May 18 and established an advisory board to come up with recommendations on how a phased reopening can take place. The decision upset some in the business community who are struggling to survive due to coronavirus restrictions.
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"We are still at the plateau with respect to the surge," Baker said Wednesday. "And as your governor, we are always going to put Massachusetts first. We'll be ready to move on from this stage of our lives, but not until we see data showing it can be done appropriately."
He said the Reopening Advisory Board held its first meeting Tuesday and will continue to develop a plan over the next few weeks. They are already looking at guidelines for safe distancing and what types of equipment might be needed to ensure safe workplaces.
But ultimately, Baker said the decision on when to reopen will be dictated by the public health and hospitalization data.
"We have not yet seen the downward trend that virtually every analyst, public health expert and CDC official has said is a critical part of moving to reopen," he said.
Massachusetts health officials reported 150 new COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, bringing the the total number of deaths in the state since the pandemic began to 3,153. The state also reported 1,840 new cases, for a total of more than 58,000.
Still, Baker said the state and its health care system has been able to meet the demands of the coronavirus surge.
"Our frontline health workers have totally stepped up to the plate, as have our first responders, public transportation employees, grocery store workers and so many others," he said. "Most importantly, the people of the commonwealth have done a terrific job of staying at home, social distancing, maintaining good hygiene, helping us to bend the trend and stop the spread. I want to thank you for all you're doing. We're in this together, and we're quite sure because of all your hard work there are better days ahead."
Even with the weather expected to improve in the coming days, Baker said he is not concerned that large numbers of residents will disobey the state's stay-at-home advisory and guidelines for social distancing.
"People around here have been really good for the most part about understanding and appreciating why distance is so important," he said. "That's a big part of why we didn't see a big spike."
He continued to urge people to wear masks or other face coverings in public, but said he has no plans for statewide fines for violators like the ones some cities and towns have already implemented.