Gov. Charlie Baker made an impassionate plea to Massachusetts residents ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, when the sun is expected to be out, to keep up their end of the fight against the coronavirus.
"If you're gonna go out, be smart. Be careful, respect the virus," Baker said Friday afternoon in Lawrence, where the mayor announced a $1 million commitment to test 1,000 city residents each day.
Many people usually mark Memorial Day at beaches, parks or cookouts with family and friends, but gatherings have become ways for the virus to spread, even ones who think they're healthy. Baker said he understands the desire to go out but urged those who do to continue wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance, "your two greatest allies in preventing the spread" of the virus.
He emphasized the success that Massachusetts has had in flattening the curve, and at great expense.
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"Don't let a few nice days step on that. We need to continue to make the kind of progress we all made in battling this thing over the past two or three months," Baker said.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera echoed Baker's comments about taking care over Memorial Day weekend: "I'm gonna find a way to get my hands on a burger this weekend. Trust me, I will not be deterred. But I'm gonna have a mask."
Baker and Rivera were speaking from the new drive-up testing site behind the Everett Mill on Canal Street that the city was investing in.
Lawrence General Hospital President and CEO Deb Wilson said that Lawrence residents who have coronavirus symptoms or who have been alerted through contact tracing that they were exposed to someone who's tested positive will get a doctor's order and an appointment time at the drive-up test site.
Rivera noted that his city is home to many of the essential workers in the Merrimack River Valley, so greater testing in Lawrence will help surrounding communities as well. The city is paying for the initiative from its cash reserves, which it's built up over several years.
"Lawrence is as prepared as any community can be to fight this war and heal after," he said.
The mayor also announced that all public events were being canceled through the end of the year to prevent the spread of the virus.
Lawrence is one of the hardest-hit communities in Massachusetts, with 3,041 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, the fourth-highest rate in the state as of Wednesday. One hundred and nine Lawrence residents have died, Rivera noted.
Testing is important for containing the virus, but just "one piece of the cake recipe," along with things like hand-washing and keeping distance, Rivera said. "You wouldn't have the cake without eggs."
Baker did not give a daily briefing on Thursday, but made an appearance on WGBH's Boston Public radio where he warned that residents need to prepare for a lengthy battle with the coronavirus.
"There's a lot of lessons in this and honestly, I really hope we learn them all," he said. "This thing's going to be with us for a while, that's for sure."
The governor also continued to defend his plan for a gradual, phased reopening, saying it is the right approach because of the state's relatively widespread population density and the interconnected nature of most of its economy.
"We're still learning about this thing," he said. "The difficulty is making really big decisions with big consequences with something we're still learning about. That's why we're pursuing such a slow go and slow roll of reopening, and why we waited until we met a bunch of key criteria before we went there."
Baker said he looks at state-by-state data frequently and noted that four states hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak -- New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut -- all have high volumes of residents living close together. Some commenters have asked why the administration is planning a slow ramp-up for the entire state, Baker said, rather than impose widely different policies for the capital and less dense regions around it.
"We're a heck of a lot smaller geographically than New York is or Pennsylvania or some of these other states, and we have people everywhere," he said. "We're not as open-spaced -- we're way denser than most of these other places, and that factors in a big way as to whether you can do stuff regionally or not."
That brings the number of people to have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, over 90,000, according to the Department of Public Health. COVID-19 has been detected in a total of 6,148 people who've died in Massachusetts as well.