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Baker: 'A Lot More To Say' Next Week On Mass. Reopening 'Rules For Engagement'

Gov. Charlie Baker gives a press conference at the Cartamundi plant in East Longmeadow. The plant, in partnership with Hasbro, is making clear plastic face shields as personal protective devices for health care workers, first responders and law enforcement. (Douglas Hook/MassLive)
Gov. Charlie Baker gives a press conference at the Cartamundi plant in East Longmeadow. The plant, in partnership with Hasbro, is making clear plastic face shields as personal protective devices for health care workers, first responders and law enforcement. (Douglas Hook/MassLive)

May 4 is "not the key metric" for determining when Massachusetts will lift emergency restrictions currently in place through that date to stem the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press conference Saturday.

Baker has been fielding questions all week about whether he will extend the state's closure of non-essential businesses, which is due to lift in just over a week, according to a March 31 order.

Since that order was signed, however, projections for when Massachusetts will experience its "surge" in coronavirus cases have shifted, Baker said.

"May 4th was based on our assumption that we were going to be in the surge at some point in early April," Baker said. "The surge has been a little bit later than that."

Baker spoke after touring a Hasbro factory in East Longmeadow that has shifted from producing board games and toys to making face shields — as many as 50,000 per week — that are being donated to front-line workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Baker said 250 of the Hasbro-made shields have gone to staff at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, a long-term care facility where 57 veterans have died of COVID-19 complications as of Thursday.

Baker also said that the 200,000 respirator masks that he announced last week would be delivered to firefighters and law enforcement will be distributed this coming week.

Baker reiterated that a falling COVID-19 hospitalization rate is one of the primary benchmarks that will dictate Massachusetts' approach to reopening. That rate has dropped slightly in recent days. There will also need to be "rules for engagement" in place to inform how that reopening occurs, Baker said.

"Which we'll have a lot more to say about next week," he added.

Those rules can't be created in a vacuum, Baker said, and the process to outline how reopening might occur has been made more difficult by the fact that surges in states that border Massachusetts are not all peaking at the same time. Massachusetts, for example, is in the middle of its surge. Vermont's has come and gone, while Rhode Island's isn't expected to peak for about a week, Baker said.

"I don't want Maine or New Hampshire or Vermont or Connecticut or Rhode Island or New York ... to do something that they believe is an important part of their reopening that unwittingly creates issues for us," he said. "I certainly don't want us to do anything that creates issues for them."

Much is unknown about what life in Massachusetts will look like when businesses reopen their doors. But if one thing is certain about what's included in those reopening guidelines, it's the continued prevalence of masks and other face coverings, Baker said.

"I certainly believe that whatever the rules of the road look like for reopening, masks ... and face coverings are gonna be a big part of it — have to be," he said.

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Jack Mitchell Twitter Digital Audio Editor
Jack Mitchell works on Project CITRUS, which explores the future of on-demand audio on emerging tech platforms.

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