COVID-19 benchmarks continue in good direction

Hundreds of protesters shout ‘Open Business, Close Baker’

AS KEY COVID-19 benchmarks continue to trend downward, hundreds of people gathered in front of the State House on Monday to pressure the Baker administration to start reopening the state now and not wait until mid-May.

The protesters, a majority of them not wearing face coverings, blocked off Beacon Street to traffic and shouted that they wanted to go back to work. “Open Business, Close Baker,” read one sign held aloft as speaker after speaker condemned Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for closing businesses, destroying livelihoods, and suppressing personal freedoms.

Some of the speakers complained that prisoners were being let out of jail even as regular working people were being told to remain in their homes and give up their jobs. Speakers also complained that the news media were moving in lockstep with the politicians by suppressing alternative viewpoints about the dangerousness of COVID-19.

The crowd was overwhelmingly white and many of them sported Make America Great Again hats, which were being sold by vendors. Many entire families showed up to protest.

The protest came amid continued signs that the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts is beginning to slow. The state reported 1,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the lowest level since March 31 except for a one-day aberration on April 5 when 765 new cases were reported. Cases as a percent of tests fell to 10 percent, continuing a downward trend in that category.

COVID-19 hospitalizations fell to 3,539, the lowest level since April 13, and the continuation of a downward trend that has been going on since April 21. The number of patients in intensive care increased by four to 908 on Monday, but that number has also been trending downward since April 21.

The number of new deaths fell to 88, the lowest level since April 12. Nearly 70 percent, or 60, of those new deaths occurred in long-term care facilities. Overall since the pandemic began, long-term care facilities have accounted for 59 percent of the 4,090 deaths.

Baker, at his press conference before the Monday numbers were released, indicated he was pleased. “The numbers have started to trend in the right direction,” he said.

Gov. Charlie Baker at a State House press conference. (Pool photo by Angela Rowlings of the Boston Herald)

Still, he declined to say whether he would begin a phased opening of the state prior to May 18, when a series of orders and guidances that have shut down the state are currently set to expire. As he has many times before, Baker said he didn’t want to reopen the state until he was confident a resurgence of COVID-19 cases would not occur. “I don’t want to bring this back,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito is heading up an advisory board scheduled to make recommendations May 18 on how to start reopening the state. It’s unclear whether the timing of that report could delay a reopening beyond May 18.

Meet the Author

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.

Baker has been very clear about what indicators he would follow in beginning to reopen the state, but he has been less clear on what it would take to begin reopening long-term care facilities, where the toll of the pandemic has been the highest.

Marylou Sudders, the governor’s secretary of health and human services, said the metric wouldn’t be solely a reduction in deaths, although she said the state wants that to happen. She said a recent appropriation of $130 million to the long-term care industry is contingent on facilities complying with 28 different metrics, ranging from having sufficient personal protection equipment on hand to employees who are not rotating between residents with and without COVID-19.

Sudders said auditors began visiting nursing homes on Monday to collect the facilities’ compliance reports and will follow up with efforts to independently verify that compliance. She said facilities would end up being rated red, yellow, or green depending on their level of compliance with the metrics and added that the information would be shared with the public by May 15.