By Lauren Bennett
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to develop, Governor Charlie Baker continues to update the public with new announcements.
After President Trump over the weekend announced the extension of the federal guidelines for social distancing until April 30, Governor Baker on Tuesday announced an extension of his previous executive order requiring the closure of all non-essential businesses as well as the stay-at-home advisory until May 4. The orders were previously set to end on April 7. “This order also extends the 10 person limit on social gatherings until May 4 as well,” the governor said.
The state will also put out an updated list of businesses and organizations that will continue to operate during this period of time, which can be found at mass.gov/covid19.
“These actions will improve our ability to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the impact the surge has on our healthcare system,” Baker said.
The governor said he recognizes the “high cost” this has on small businesses and on residents who have to stay away from their loved ones for even longer.
“If we can limit face-to-face, person-to-person contact now, we can slow the spread and get back to work as soon as safely as we can,” he said.
Additionally, the governor said that hotels, motels, and short term rentals like Airbnbs are to be used “for limited purposes only”—ones that serve “direct efforts related to the fight against COVID-19,” which includes nurses, doctors, workers part of the essential business community, and Massachusetts residents “who have been otherwise displaced.”
Baker said that restaurants may continue providing food for takeout and delivery only, and stressed the importance of social distancing when outside and inside grocery stores and pharmacies.
“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in this battle,” Baker said. “People need to play their part.”
He thanked all the workers on the front lines, including nurses, doctors, first responders, public sector workers, the National Guard, and essential workers like grocery store employees. “The state is filled with remarkable people and remarkable communities,” he said.
Baker also talked about the 13 confirmed deaths at the Solders’ Home in Holyoke, six of which have been officially attributed to COVID-19.
Baker said that in the short term, a primary focus of the state will be on the residents of the Solders’ Home in Holyoke, and assured that the state “will get to the bottom of it.”
On March 30, the governor also announced actions that would increase the health care workforce in Massachusetts, including expediting licensing for certain health care workers and initiatives to recruit volunteer medical professionals. Health care professionals who are licensed in other states or have allowed their Massachusetts licenses to expire within the past 10 years while in good standing can received expedited licenses to help out in hospitals.
Additionally, the Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center is working to create dedicated facilities for people who are infected with the virus but are stable enough to not be in the hospital. This will free up hospital beds for those who need more critical care.
Baker also spoke about the federal relief package passed by Congress last week, calling it “a lot of good news.” He said that states are still waiting on guidance from the federal government about how to “implement and distribute these funds.”
Additionally, “our administration is committed to getting the resources to people who need them,” Baker said. Updates will be posted on mass.gov.
Baker said that the state continues to look for personal protective equipment (PPE) through a. Variety of different supply chains, and the national stockpile did send additional supplies over the weekend. He added that there is a “crucial need” for blood donations right now as well.
The surge in cases in Massachusetts has been calculated to start somewhere between April 7 and April 17, Baker said.
“For the most part people are doing a good job” of social distancing, he added, stressing the importance of doing so when going outside.
“We are about to enter what will be the most difficult period associated with this virus,” Baker said on Tuesday, adding that there is “no doubt in my mind…that you will all perform above and beyond.”