Don’t expect ‘bold’ reopening report

Baker’s description: cautious, careful, slow, steady

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said his administration’s reopening report coming on Monday is a well-thought-out piece of work, describing it with words like cautious, careful, slow, and steady.

“I absolutely know that people who think we’re going too fast will say you’re going too fast and people who think we’re going too slow will say you’re going too slow,” he said at a State House press conference on Friday. “That’s kind of where we are here folks, and that’s where we’re going to be for awhile.”

Baker, who acknowledged that “slow and steady is not exactly anybody’s ideal of bold,” said the goal is to slowly reopen the economy so it will stay open through the fall and not be thrown into reverse by a second wave of the virus.

“The best way to make sure we deal properly with this second wave is to be respectful of the virus,” he said. “Despite the tragedy that’s just everywhere, it’s a real impressive story so far. But it doesn’t end until we get through the fall.”

Baker clarified that his ambitious testing plans announced on Wednesday are designed to reach a 5 percent positive test rate by the end of December. The positive test rate is calculated by dividing the number of new cases by the number of new tests. Massachusetts has been hovering in the 10 to 15 percent range for some time.

Baker’s testing plan, which hinges on securing federal funding, calls for ramping up capacity to 45,000 tests a day by the end of July and 75,000 tests a day by the end of December. By increasing the number of tests, the positive test rate should go down even if the number of new cases doesn’t decline from current levels. Baker said on Friday he is not expecting to reach 5 percent until the end of December, when the state is expected to be running 75,000 tests a day. At 75,000 tests a day, a 5 percent positive test rate would mean 3,079 new cases. That’s more new cases than the state has ever had in a day so far; the highest was 3,079 on April 23.

Asked about the potentially high infection rate seven months from now, Baker said to keep in mind that 5 to 10 percent of people may have had the virus before anyone started testing.

Baker and Marylou Sudders, his secretary of health and human services, said they are moving on a variety of fronts to plan for a safe reopening. Baker touted efforts by large companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Raytheon, Wayfair, Mass Mutual, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, and others to continue having a large portion of their employees work from home. The stay-at-home workforce will allow those who do go to work to operate with social distancing.

Sudders said Walmart has agreed to do self-swab testing at its stores in Salem, Brockton, Quincy, and Plymouth, expanding a testing network that now numbers about 250 sites. Sudders said the state has launched a website identifying where those sites are located.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The COVID-19 trend lines continued to move in a positive direction. The positive test rate was just under 11 percent and hospitalizations and patients in intensive car both continued to drop.

There were 110 deaths reported on Friday – 76 in long-term care facilities and 34 everywhere else. COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities account for 61 percent of all COVID-19 deaths.