Massachusetts Representative Mike Connolly is calling on Governor Charlie Baker to extend his stay-at-home advisory until at least the beginning of June, arguing in a letter signed by six other Democratic state lawmakers that it’s too soon to begin easing restrictions put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter comes as Baker, a Republican, gets ready to release his plan for gradually lifting coronavirus restrictions. He’s expected to release recommendations from a reopening advisory board on Monday, the same day the stay-at-home advisory is currently scheduled to lift.
“While we are cognizant of the hardships people continue to endure, we think it would be premature to allow the Stay-At-Home Advisory to expire on Monday, May 18th,” Connolly and his fellow lawmakers wrote in the letter.
The lawmakers argue that Massachusetts has not yet reached benchmarks on testing that the Centers for Disease Control has said are needed for reopening. CDC guidelines call on states to implement a “robust” testing program for health care workers before reopening. In their letter, the lawmakers also argue the “raw number” of daily coronavirus cases remains too high.
Connolly, of Cambridge, also criticized Baker’s approach to lifting the restrictions. Though he outlined in broad terms the phased strategy he’s using to reopen parts of the economy, Baker did not include any indications about which businesses may be allowed to resume activity or when, telling reporters this week that such information would be forthcoming.
In his letter, Connolly called the lack of information “confusing” and warned it could result in poor decision-making by residents.
Asked about the letter during his daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, Baker reiterated that he’s implementing a phased reopening, and pointed to metrics indicating hospitalization rates and new cases are trending down overall. He also said Massachusetts would be ramping up testing with a goal of becoming one of the top states in the country for testing on a per capita basis.
“Part of the reason we’ve talked about a phased reopening and a go-slow reopening, is because we want to be conservative and careful and cautious with respect to the way we do this," Baker said.
As the pandemic response in Massachusetts has shifted to planning for a reopening, a debate has emerged about how much of the economy should reopen and when. The vast majority of Massachusetts residents have been supportive of the current stay-at-home advisory and nonessential business closure order, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Globe/WGBH poll released last week. But a small number protested the lockdown measures at the State House earlier this month, calling on Baker to lift restrictions immediately.
Baker acknowledged as much during his Friday press conference, saying there would be those who think he’s going too slow and those who think he’s going too fast.
“What we believe is, based on data, information, guidance, and advice from a lot of very smart people, that this will represent what we consider to be a properly cautious and careful way forward,” he said.
In addition to Connolly, the letter was signed by Representatives Lindsay Sabadosa, Christine Barber, Michelle DuBois, Nika Elugardo, Jack Lewis, and Maria Robinson.
Read the letter:
This morning, I joined with House colleagues to call on @MassGovernor to extend the #StayAtHome advisory and to do more to prioritize the needs of those most impacted by #COVID19. Because of the urgent nature of the situation, we didn't have time to do a broad call for sign-ons. pic.twitter.com/debqzIBBpg— Mike Connolly (@MikeConnollyMA) May 15, 2020