Baker "Cautiously Optimistic," Reopening Planned

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Certain industries in Massachusetts could reopen in the coming weeks, as data from the Department of Public Health starts to show coronavirus test rates and hospitalizations on the decline.

During a press conference on Wednesday outside Gillette Stadium, Gov. Baker said he is "encouraged" by the drop in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in recent days.

"About 13 percent of those tests reported that came back yesterday came back positive," said Baker. "Over the past week or so, the percentage of positive cases has consistently been lower than it was last month. As a point of reference, in mid-April, around 30 percent of our COVID-19 tests were coming back positive for the virus."

Baker said he is also encouraged by recent data from the DPH showing a low and steady number of hospitalizations due to the virus.

"As of yesterday there were 3,542 patients, or about five percent of the cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts based on our testing results, were hospitalized due to COVID-19," said Baker. "That number has basically been flat for the past several days." Baker said that data means the state could see some select industries open back up by mid-May.

"Our goal, starting on May 18, is to begin reopening certain types of businesses in a limited fashion," said Baker, "where it can be done more safely than under normal operations. But this phased-in process cannot begin until we see sustained downward trends in many of the data elements that we talk about every day."

According to Baker, that includes positive test rates, hospitalization rates, and fatalities. It also includes a decline in how may hospitals are treating patients under so-called "surge conditions," including using reopened wings of hospitals, converted field medical centers, and extra healthcare staff.

Baker said a "significant number of hospitals" are still very much relying on temporary field hospitals, and he said the state still needs to see more patients recovering and moving out of hospital-level care.

"We are cautiously optimistic about some of this data, but we should certainly not let up now," said Baker. "As I stand here with Gillette Stadium behind me, I have to say that no one quits, no one stops, no one slows down in the 4th quarter."

While Baker called it "encouraging to see some positive progress," he said the state needs to see those numbers continue to drop as it comes through the other side of the pandemic, and that it is important to remember that test results alone are "not telling the whole story on how COVID-19 is still brutally impacting many of our communities."

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