coronavirus

Amid ‘Pain and Misery' of Pandemic, Baker Sees Hope in Springfield Revitalization Project

"We all have the chance to to sort of express some joy," Baker said of the project to redevelop the former site of the Court Square Hotel

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Gov. Charlie Baker was set to update the public on Massachusetts response to the coronavirus Thursday morning.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday touted a plan to revitalize a long-vacant section of downtown Springfield, saying it was a sign of hope amid the harrowing coronavirus pandemic.

"This is the kind of day, the kind of project, that in the midst of all the pain and misery -- there's been a lot of it because of COVID -- we all have the chance to to sort of express some joy and some hope and some opportunity and possibility about something people have been working on for decades," Baker said.

Baker said he expected the redevelopment of 13-31 Elm Street -- the former Court Square Hotel property -- to be "jaw dropping" and that it would help start an economic revitalization in the area.

The project is a private-public partnership involving the state and local governments as well as entities such as MGM, Winn Companies and MassMutual. Officials said it would dramatically reshape the area near Court Square.

According to MassLive, developers are planning to build 74-unit apartment complex in the area, mostly comprised of "market rate upscale apartments." There will also be "workforce apartments" for tenants earning up to 80% of the area median income, the website reported.

Gov. Baker provides a COVID-19 update from Wheel Works Bicycle Store and announces the "My Local MA" campaign, urging residents to shop at local stores while practicing social distancing during the sales tax free weekend.

State health officials on Wednesday reported 315 new coronavirus cases and 26 more deaths, with the coronavirus testing rate holding a steady 1.1%.

There have now been 8,755 confirmed deaths and 117,085 cases, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's daily COVID-19 report.

The remarks came after Baker on Tuesday said he had no immediate plan to move forward in the state's reopening process -- despite modest gains in the fight against the coronavirus -- saying his administration was focused on schools reopening in the fall.

Northeastern University students will be tested for COVID-19 every three days and workers will be tested twice a week throughout the semester in an attempt to prevent outbreaks.

"I think we're going to pretty much stay where we are," Baker said at a press conference Tuesday. "Our primary focus at this point is the colleges reopening, whether it's remote or kids coming back to school; and with the K-12 school reopening."

He added: "We want to focus our efforts and time on (schools reopening) and don't anticipate doing anything in regards to the current state of play on the guidance and advisories with respect to other businesses."

Baker earlier this month said he was pausing the state's reopening plan amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases. That meant the state would refrain from entering the second step of Phase 3 of the reopening plan and reduce the outdoor gathering limit from 100 to 50.

Baker said his administration was in constant contact with universities and communities about how to enforce social distancing guidelines when the academic year begins, amid concerns about incoming students potentially spreading the virus.

The governor urged people to continue wearing masks practicing social distancing and adhering to guidelines for gatherings. He said health officials had learned of a wedding event in Rhode Island attended by some Massachusetts residents, after which every attendee except one tested positive for COVID-19.

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