Gov. Baker: Too Soon to Make Any Decisions About Canceling School Year

The governor also spoke Thursday about what the state is doing to address the record number of unemployment claims

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Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that he thinks it's still too early to make any decisions about the remainder of the school year.

Some states, including Vermont, have already said students won't be returning to the classroom this school year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But Baker said he isn't ready to take that drastic step in Massachusetts.

As Mass. prepares for a surge in coronavirus numbers, Gov. Baker provides an update on COVID-19.

"At this point in time we would be concerned about writing off the rest of the school year, especially given how uneven the online process has been across the Commonwealth," he said. "If we do end up in a situation like that, we are going to have to come up with some type of strategy to try to help all the kids try to get what they didn't get that they were supposed to get."

Baker also said Thursday that Massachusetts has received word that it will be getting an additional 100 ventilators from the federal stockpile, to be distributed to local hospitals helping to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor said Boston Children's Hospital donated five more ventilators, and the state continues to focus on the pursuit of additional ventilators through various channels.

Another field hospital is getting ready to open its doors at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Baker also trumpeted the new field medical centers opening across the state, including at the DCU Center in Worcester and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

UMass Memorial Hospital is providing staffing at the DCU Center, and Partners HealthCare will staff the BCEC site. The Boston center, dubbed Boston HOPE, will provide an additional 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients.

These locations, along with others still being established, will help provide additional capacity to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office is launching an investigation into a nursing facility in Holyoke where more than a dozen veterans have died amid an outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Baker also spoke Thursday about the record unemployment claims the state has been seeing.

He said 470,000 people have filed for unemployment in Massachusetts over the past three weeks. Normally, he said the state would see 10,000 to 30,000 over a similar time period.

"These numbers, obviously, are staggering," Baker said. "Behind every new claim is a story of economic disruption and hardship caused by the unprecedented impact of this virus."

Following the death of a grocery store employee from COVID-19, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is working on new guidelines to protect employees.

The governor said he knows many people are frustrated waiting for callbacks, and the state has scaled up its customer service staff from 50 to over 600 to help deal with the increase. He also said the state will be launching a new mobile-friendly Spanish only app in the coming days.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also spoke Thursday about efforts to expand the 24/7 SafeLink hotline for sexual and domestic violence victims, as social distancing leads to a rise in the number of reported cases. She said the hotline is now available via 211 or by calling 877-785-2020.

On Wednesday, Baker said Massachusetts is still expecting to see a surge in coronavirus patients between April 10 and April 20. He added that the percentage of those testing positive for the virus reached a new high on Monday with 30 percent testing positive.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he was considering greater restrictions in supermarkets to keep customers and employees safe.

As of Wednesday, the state had reported 16,790 cases of COVID-19, including 433 fatal ones.

Baker said Wednesday the state is "still in the upward slope" of the pandemic, but has not experienced the same steep acceleration seen in places like Wuhan, China, and New York City.

"We're cautiously optimistic that social distancing and our other orders are helping to flatten the curve," the governor said. "These remain our most effective weapons to combat this disease."

MGH, Brigham and Women's Hospital and UMass Medical Center are all taking part in a new clinical trial, according to the Globe.

"This is not a time to get complacent," he said. "So everyone needs to continue to hold up their end of the deal."

That means staying home, washing your hands, using hand sanitizer and wearing a mask or face covering when you leave the house.

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