Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker struck a cautiously optimistic tone Tuesday about the state’s progress in battling the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the trends in data were hopeful but “we’re still very much in the fight.”
The state reported Tuesday that the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts had risen by 122 cases to 4,212. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbed by 1,184 to 70,271.
The Department of Public Health also reported 9,081 new tests had been conducted, marking a total of 333,349 in the state.
Baker pointed to a continuing decline in the rate of positive coronavirus test results as a “good sign,” especially considering the rate has been declining as more tests have been processed. The seven-day moving average of the percentage of positive tests edged downward to 15 percent Tuesday.
Baker said officials have also seen “a pretty steady downward trend” in hospitalizations for the virus, which he called “a really encouraging sign.”
“We’re still very much in the fight against the virus, but it’s encouraging, I think, for everybody to see progress, given how much hard work and how much sacrifice has been invested in this,” he said.
Baker said the state has seen “for the first time, a few days in a row of the right kinds of trends.”
He cautioned, however, that “no one thinks you need less than 14 days” of positive data before the state can move in the direction of reopening.
“We are starting to see the positive downward trends in a number of those key indices that are so critical to our ability to actually pursue a phased reopening strategy here in Massachusetts,” Baker said. “Now, they need to continue to go in that direction for a while to live up to the guidance the federal government and many other countries have given to folks like us for how to think about this.”
Asked about his order, effective Wednesday, that requires residents to wear face coverings in public when they can’t socially distance, Baker conceded that “100 percent compliance” is probably “not a reasonable expectation.” But he expressed optimism that most people would heed the order, since it’s “the right thing to do” for them and their loved ones.
“I think people for the most part are going to do it, I really do,” he said.
Baker held his daily briefing at the Merrow Manufacturing plant in Fall River, which, he said, will produce thousands of protective gowns every week for front-line workers battling the virus.
As of Monday, Baker said, the state had distributed nearly 8.5 million pieces of protective equipment including masks, gowns, gloves, and ventilators to health facilities and front-line workers.
The virus has sickened more than 3.6 million people and killed more than 252,000 worldwide. In the United States, more than 1.18 million people have been sickened and more than 69,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Massachusetts’ heartbreaking death toll is likely an undercount, since the disease arrived stealthily, before officials realized it, experts and Baker have said. The state continues to report scores of deaths each day.
Experts differ on the ultimate death toll in Massachusetts. And their own models have been spitting out different numbers as the pandemic progresses. The latest estimate from closely-watched University of Washington model suggests that by the beginning of August nearly 7,700 residents will have died from the disease. Experts are also concerned about the virus possibly making a deadly comeback in the coming months.
While some countries and states are now moving to reopen, the world economy suffered a staggering blow as officials closed businesses and asked people to stay at home to slow the spread of the deadly virus.
The virus can cause mild to severe illness. Older adults and people with serious underlying conditions are most at risk for severe illness and death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Martin finucane can be reached at email@example.com. Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss