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Gov. Baker: Masks, State Coordination Will Play Big Part In Reopening

EAST LONGMEADOW (CBS) -- Gov. Charlie Baker has not said yet if he will extend the emergency order that is keeping all non-essential businesses closed until May 4. "May 4 was based on our assumption that we were going to be in this surge at some point in early April. The surge has been a little bit later than that," Baker said Saturday.

The governor said two things need to take place before reopening: first, there would need to be a clear drop in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and evidence the state is past the surge. "Second is putting the rules for engagement or reopening in place, which we'll have a lot more to say about next week."

He mentioned coordination from surrounding states and the advice to wear a mask will both be part of the plan.

"I would fully expect that states are going to talk a lot on a regular basis, over the course of the next month, probably the next four or five months," Baker said along with: "I certainly believe that whatever the rules of the road look like for reopening, masks and face coverings are going be a big part of it."

Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and Congressman Richard Neal toured the Hasbro partner factory Cartamundi in East Longmeadow Saturday. The space has been converted from manufacturing games to making 50,000 plastic face shields per week to donate to local hospitals fighting coronavirus in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The governor said the donation "will save lives."

"I think you've all heard us talk a lot over the course of the past few weeks about the challenges we faced in trying to get PPE [personal protective gear]," said Baker. "This is a big deal. They've stepped up, reconverted some of their operations created this space to safely make it possible to manufacture gear to support our frontline workers and first responders."

Hasbro also donated 250 face shields to the Holyoke Soldiers' Home which has been hit hard by the virus. As of Friday, 73 veterans there have died during the outbreak, of which 62 tested positive for the coronavirus. Eighty-one employees have also tested positive.

"We're doing this because it's part of our purpose as a company to make the world a better place for children in their families. And we're doing this because it's the right thing to do," Hasbro CEO John Fascotti.

The state has provided 6.1 million pieces of PPE, to hospitals, first responders, and long-term care facilities.

According to Baker, 600 firms, 400 based in Massachusetts, have taken up the state's offer to provide funding for them to switch manufacturing gears to create PPE.

As of Friday, there were 50,969 cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts.

About eight percent of the total confirmed positive coronavirus cases currently hospitalized. Baker said, "that number has remained stable for quite a few days now and we continue to manage and watch the hospitalization rate and hospital capacity issue very carefully."

Baker said 55% of hospital beds remain available for patients. Despite the fact that we are in the surge, "I can't express this enough: people worked really hard to make the healthcare system flexible enough and large enough so that we would not only be able to serve the people who were dealing with COVID-19 but that we would not suffer what had happened in many other countries over the course of the past few months, which was losing the ability to take care of everybody else. We have that capacity, we have that ability. It was a big part of our planning."

"People have done a terrific job of organizing their emergency rooms in a way to ensure that folks who aren't dealing with COVID are dealt with separately from folks who are."

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