When Will Massachusetts Reopen?

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday extended the business closure and stay-at-home advisory by two weeks, but there's no guarantee the state will reopen then

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For weeks, many small businesses in Massachusetts have been shut down, students have been home from school and tens of thousands of people have been unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak.

But when will the state reopen? And when is the right time for that to happen? It's an issue that has a lot of people split.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday extended the state's non-essential business closures and stay-at-home advisory by two weeks, to May 18. He also created the Reopening Advisory Board to develop a plan on how to do it.

But he didn't give a date he expects to reopen, only offering sympathy: "I get the fact that it's hard ... and it's especially hard if you're out of work or if your business isn't able to operate."

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker extends the stay-at-home advisory and closure of non-essential businesses until May 18.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh had been direct when asked about it Monday, saying it wouldn't happen on May 4 even before Baker's announcement.

"There is no question that May 4 is too early," he said. "I can tell you right now Boston will not reopen on May 4."

Walsh said after so much effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, the city must continue to be cautious.

Non-essential businesses in Boston will not be opening back up at the start of next week.

"I do think it's important for us to err on the side of caution and continue to take drastic steps," Walsh told CNN on Tuesday. "I think there's an opportunity to look at how we reopen -- don't get too far ahead of the game."

But many people -- especially small business owners -- are eager to know when the stay-at-home advisory and non-essential business closures will be lifted. Baker has formed an advisory panel to help develop a series of guidelines.

The additional $130 million will be available to nursing homes in Massachusetts starting May 1, Gov. Charlie Baker announces in a COVID-19 update.

The governor also said Monday that the curve has now flattened in Massachusetts and the number of coronavirus cases is plateauing.

"We've flattened the curve," he said. "It seems to have plateaued depending on the part of Massachusetts. Our hope and expectation is it will start to fall. It will probably fall slowly the same way it increased."

Another coronavirus drive-thru testing site is opening in Medford as Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker works to ramp up testing throughout the state.

Walsh said the city needs more data before a well thought out plan can be made for Boston to reopen.

A common refrain among officials is that testing remains key to reopening. A dozen more testing sites are expected to open statewide next week.

The thought of extending the closure is not sitting well with a lot of small businesses. They want to know what the state's plan is as soon as possible.

Trends in Each State

The official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests for states to lift quarantine measures.

As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. Critics call the measures vague and ultimately because they aren't binding, some states have chosen to reopen whether they meet the criteria or not.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

“The uncertainty is certainly what I’d consider unsettling,” said P.J. Presti, who owns a barbershop in Middleborough. He said he just wants to know what the guidelines will be for reopening, and what he’ll need in terms of masks, cleaning supplies and proper procedures so he can be ready to go when the time comes.

“I don’t know if a forehead thermometer will be something we’ll need,” said Presti, who owns Middleborough Barbering Company. “It’s just stuff like that I'd like to know what I’ll need so I can do my best to make sure everybody is as safe as possible.”

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