Charlie Baker forms board to plan reopening as he extends closures, stay-at-home advisory to May 18

“We’re moving in the right direction with respect to the virus, but we are not where we need to be.”

Boston  MA  4/28/20    29coronamain  Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker during a press briefing on the states efforts battling the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at the State House Gardner Auditorium. Baker extending his order closing non-essential businesses and his stay-at-home advisory for residents until May 18.  (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)  
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Gov. Charlie Baker during Tuesday's press briefing. –Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday the extension of the state’s stay-at-home advisory and the closure of all nonessential businesses to May 18, as the battle against the coronavirus continues in Massachusetts.

“We’re moving in the right direction with respect to the virus, but we are not where we need to be,” Baker said during a press conference announcing the extension of the essential services emergency order, which had been set to expire May 4.

Gatherings of more than 10 people will also remain prohibited until May 18, and the governor also extended guidance that all Executive Branch employees performing non-core functions who are able to work remotely should continue to do so through the same date.

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“Letting up too early on things we know are working, staying home, pausing business, wearing face coverings, and practicing social distancing is not the right way to finish this fight,” Baker said. “We all know the drill and we all know what it does to slow the spread. If we stick together and play our part, we’ll come out the other side stronger, we won’t suffer the relapse that so many of us are concerned about, and we will be able to move forward on a phased reopening.”

The governor acknowledged that the measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 have brought their own hardships to the commonwealth, including the closure of schools through the rest of the year, lost jobs, business closures, and separation from loved ones. But Baker emphasized the tools for physical distancing to reduce the transmission of the virus, which has killed 3,003 residents and infected 56,462 people in Massachusetts, has helped the state avoid the “humanitarian crisis” experienced in other countries and health care systems around the world.

“The people of Massachusetts have definitely sacrificed, and they’ve definitely played their part,” Baker said. “And together with our world class hospitals, medical workers, first responders, and emergency management response personnel, we have flattened the curve. While Massachusetts has avoided the spike in new infections that would have broken our health care system, COVID-19 continues to very much be with us in many communities. Our overall hospitalization rates for COVID-19 patients have not dropped. They remain high — plateaued is the word I would use — statewide. And many health care facilities are still relying on their emergency surge beds to treat patients.”

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To be ready for when public health data suggests that coronavirus is diminishing in the state, the governor announced the creation of a Reopening Advisory Board, which is charged with informing his administration on strategies for a phased reopening of the economy.

The 17-member board will be comprised of three public health officials, three municipal officials, and 11 leaders from the business community across the state. It will be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy.

The group is charged with producing a report for reopening by May 18, but Baker stressed that public health data and guidance from health care experts will dictate the timeline of the reopening process in Massachusetts. Seeing a drop in coronavirus hospitalizations will be “critical” for reopening the state, he said.

“This includes monitoring information like hospital rates for COVID-19, the percentage of new cases, and monitoring community hot spots,” the governor said. “We’re all incredibly eager to move on from this phase of our lives, but, if we act too soon, we could risk a spike in infections that could force our state to revert to serious restrictions again — and this scenario would be far worse for our economy and for our communities and for our people. We’ll keep monitoring several data points to identify trends that indicate the rate of infection, and we’ll continue to make decisions based on what we think is best for Massachusetts.”

Below, the members of the Reopening Advisory Board:

  •       Aron Ain, CEO, Kronos Inc & Ultimate Software
  •       Carlo Zaffanella, Vice President and General Manager, Maritime & Strategic Systems, General Dynamics Mission Systems
  •       Corey Thomas, CEO, Rapid 7
  •       Daniel Rivera, Mayor, City of Lawrence
  •       Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, Massachusetts General Hospital
  •       Girish Navani, CEO and Co-Founder, eClinicalWorks
  •       Joe Bahena, Senior Vice President, Joseph Abboud Manufacturing
  •       Kathryn Burton, Chief of Staff, City of Boston
  •       Laurie Leshin, Ph.D., President, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  •       Linda Markham, President, Cape Air
  •       Mark Keroack, President & CEO, Baystate Health
  •       Monica Bharel, Ph.D., Commissioner, Department of Public Health
  •       Nicole LaChapelle, Mayor, City of Easthampton
  •       Pamela Everhart, Head of Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations, Fidelity Investments 
  •       Stephanie Pollack, Transportation Secretary and CEO
  •       Steve DiFillippo, CEO, Davios Restaurants
  •       Wendy Hudson, Owner, Nantucket Book Partners
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