Charlie Baker blames recent uptick in coronavirus cases on gatherings, won’t pull back on reopening

The head of the Massachusetts Medical Society is calling on the state to pull back on reopening efforts as the positive test rate for coronavirus has crept up in recent days, but Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s not turning back and pointed the finger at private gatherings where he says people have “let their guard down.”

“We can’t say enough how important it is that until we have a vaccine that everybody continues to play their role. When we let our guard down, COVID will make gains,” Baker said.

Baker said he is “aware of some small clusters associated with gatherings.” Maskless partygoers spread their germs at a large house party in Chatham earlier this month, triggering shutowns at several Cape Cod restaurants where the infected people worked. A second cluster has emerged at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield where 23 employees and 13 patients fell ill after a worker visited a hotspot region and brought the virus back, according to hospital officials.

The Department of Public Health confirmed nearly 500 new coronavirus cases over the weekend and 31 new COVID-19 deaths, prompting Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society to call on the state to pull back on its reopening efforts.

“Last four days in #Massachusetts had #COVID19 new positive tests over 200. Last time that happened? Mid-June — on the way down,” Rosman tweeted Sunday night. “The data is early, but it looks like we are on the way back up. We should consider backing down a phase. #wearamask.”

The seven-day average of the positive test rate as of Sunday has climbed up to 1.9% after holding around 1.7% for more than a week. Baker said Massachusetts “should be enormously proud of what has been accomplished in terms of turning the tide” and lowering the positive test rate average that hovered around 20% as the virus peak in April.

Baker acknowledged people are “out and about” more, and admitted that when it comes to the uptick, “some of that is a result of the economic activity.” Still, he emphasized the importance of mask-wearing, social distancing and personal hygiene when it comes to slowing the spread of coronavirus.

“As I have said many times, COVID is not going to take the summer off, and neither can we. Every resident, every business has a responsibility to do their part to stop the spread,” Baker said.

Another tool to containing the highly infectious virus is testing, the Republican governor said, announcing the state was doubling the number of communities in which it provides free testing. The Stop-The-Spread program launched on July 10 in eight communities that are seeing higher-than-average positive test rates as well as a decline in testing. On Monday, Baker announced testing sites would open in eight additional cities and towns: Agawam, Brockton, Methuen, Revere, Randolph, Springfield, Taunton and Worcester.

 

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