Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday highlighted the state’s “very low” seven-day positive coronavirus test rate and told reporters that alcohol regulators last week cited about 300 establishments statewide for pandemic-related violations.
Baker, a Republican, provided the update during his daily State House briefing.
“The seven-day average positivity rate is very low at 0.9 percent,” he said.
Hours later, the state announced that the figure had ticked downward, to 0.8 percent — the lowest it has been since reporting began.
The death toll from confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts rose by four to 8,937, the state Department of Public Health reported. The number of confirmed cases climbed by 182, bringing the total to 121,396.
State officials reported that 11,350 more people had been tested for coronavirus, bringing the total to more than 1.89 million. The number of administered tests climbed to more than 2.80 million
At his briefing the governor said the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission issued fines or warnings last week to about 300 establishments for infractions of COVID-19 protocols. About 900 were deemed to be in compliance.
“We’re pleased that a vast majority of our restaurants and customers are enjoying their experience — outdoor and indoor dining safely and appropriately,” he said.
Baker provided an update on unemployment benefits for those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, saying FEMA funds for an extra $300 in weekly benefits will be applied retroactively to Aug. 1.
But he also noted the FEMA funds aren’t meant to be a “permanent solution” and urged Republicans and Democrats in Congress to “come together” to pass another, broader relief package to help the unemployed, states, and municipalities.
Asked about the state’s reopening, Baker conceded it hasn’t been ideal.
“I’m as frustrated as anybody” that there are “still elements of our economy" that remain shuttered, Baker said.
But he said anyone who watched cases spike in the South and Midwest with “respect to bars and nightclubs should understand why, as much as those organizations are distressed and suffering under this current period in time,” it’s “pretty clear they played a significant role in outbreaks and new cases in many states where they were permitted to open.”
And unlike in those states, Baker said, “what we haven’t had to do is go back” once reopenings began. “I think that’s because of the guidance and the advisories and the careful way" the state’s reopening board crafted the guidelines with input from various groups.
Baker also touched on the state’s efforts over the Labor Day weekend to assist local officials with pandemic safety enforcement, outreach, and education in five municipalities hit hard by the coronavirus: Chelsea, Everett, Lawrence, Lynn, and Revere. This weekend, Baker said, Framingham will be added to the group.
“We all have the same goal, which is to keep COVID out of these communities and to do everything we can" to help keep residents safe, Baker said, adding that officials over the holiday weekend conducted 92 inspections in the five distressed cities of businesses such as funeral homes, nail salons and barbershops, identifying 47 pandemic-related violations.
Baker was also asked about restrictions on out-of-state travelers. Massachusetts currently requires visitors from 37 states to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, unless they can produce proof of a negative coronavirus test administered up to 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth.
The 13 exempt states are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. To get on the exempt list, the site says, a state must meet “two criteria: average daily cases per 100,000 below 6 and a positive test rate below 5 percent, both measured as a seven-day rolling average.”