Baker urges caution over Memorial Day weekend

Says state now has 250 COVID-19 testing sites

MASSACHUSETTS NOW HAS 250 testing sites for COVID-19 statewide, as it begins to reopen the economy and ramp up efforts to conduct mass testing.

Gov. Charlie Baker held a press conference Friday outside a newly launched COVID-19 testing site in Lawrence, a low-income city with the fourth highest rate of COVID-19 per capita in the state, with more than 2,700 confirmed cases.

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said the city is investing $1 million to allow for the testing of 1,000 residents a day.

Baker said the state is stepping up its efforts to launch testing sites with community health centers in dense communities. He also thanked private companies like CVS and Walmart that have opened drive-through testing sites. The state has set up a website where residents can search for testing sites near them.

Baker said next week the state plans to submit a plan to the federal government asking for federal assistance to boost the state’s testing capacity from 10,000 or 15,000 a day today to 45,000 tests a day by the end of July and 75,000 a day at the end of the year.

The Department of Public Health has released guidelines recommending testing for anyone with symptoms or who had contact with someone who has the virus.

Increased testing is part of the state’s strategy for reopening the state, so that people with the virus can be isolated and their contacts can self-quarantine to avoid spreading it.

Asked about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and the potential for crowds at places like beaches, Baker stressed the importance of wearing masks and maintaining social distance. “Respect the virus and understand that distancing and face coverings if you can’t stay distant are your two greatest allies in preventing the spread,” Baker said.

Baker said he lives near a beach, and he and his wife go walking, but they keep a distance from others and usually wear face coverings. He reminded residents that keeping the number of cases down is the only way Massachusetts will be able to continue reopening the economy.

“This isn’t about vanity. It’s about the safety and health of your friends and your families,” Baker said. “There’s a lot at stake here. Please be careful and respect the virus.”

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Confronted by a health care worker who said she could not access emergency daycare, Baker said guidance about the reopening of daycare centers should be coming “shortly.” He acknowledged that while there are 6,500 emergency daycare slots not being used – “they’re not all where they need to be for people who are looking.” He also noted that some parents only want to use a provider they already trust.

“We know we need additional capacity, and we know it has to be done in a way that is safe,” Baker said.