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Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Baker Extends Business Closures, Stay At Home Advisory To May 18

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said on Tuesday the state will not reopen on May 4. Instead, the date for non-essential businesses to remain closed due to coronavirus has been pushed back to May 18.

The stay-at-home advisory remains in place as well. The ban on gatherings of 10 people or more has also been extended.

"Today we're extending the timeline for all non-essential businesses to keep the physical workplaces and facilities closed to all workers, customers, and the public until May 18, and the stay at home advisory also remains in place during this time," Baker said.

Baker stressed that when the state reopens, it will be a "phased" approach and not everyone will get back to work at the same time. He announced the creation of a new 17-member Economic Reopening Advisory Board Tuesday.

"This group will work on a plan that occurs in phases to help industries navigate public health guidance and implement safety measures for the new rules of the road," Baker said, adding that the plan is due May 18.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the board will be made up of three public health officials, three municipal officials, and 11 leaders from the business community, including Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.

"This process must, and will, be guided by the public health metrics that we watch so closely every single day to inform us what a safe reopening looks like," Polito said.

Polito, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy, Mass. DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's Chief of Staff Catherine Burton are among the members.

Baker said he chose May 18 in hopes that there will be a downward trend in hospitalizations over the next several weeks.

"We have not seen a downward trend yet on a number of those key metrics," Baker said.

The board will look at things like childcare solutions, since facilities are currently ordered to remain closed through June, and whether companies should stagger work schedules or encourage long-term remote working.

On Monday, Baker said "we flattened the curve," but added it would still take time for the number of coroanvirus cases to begin to decline.

"Our overall hospitalization rates for COVID-19 patients have not dropped," Baker added on Tuesday. "They remain high - plateaued is the word I would use - statewide, and many healthcare facilities are still relying on their emergency surge beds to treat patients."

Baker's initial order for non-essential businesses to stay closed was set to run through April 7, but it was later extended through May 4. That changed again on Tuesday.

Baker said May 4 was initially chosen based on the assumption that Massachusetts would be in the surge of coronavirus cases sometime in early April. Instead, he said, the surge arrived later than anticipated.

As of Monday, there have been 3,003 coronavirus deaths and 56,462 total cases in Massachusetts.

In a phone interview with WBZ-TV, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he is confident the advisory board will do "deep research" on what is the best plan to reopen.

"It'll take some time before we know exactly if the 18th is the date. But we'll have a good understanding in the next two weeks," Walsh said.

The Boston mayor said construction could be among the first industries back to work, but it's too early to say.

Walsh added that while the state has flattened the curve, it will likely still be several days before that happens in Boston.

In Newton, The Station Diner owner Jamie Kaye is not confident in the new deadline.

"Whatever they used to measure [May 4th] was obviously wrong so I'm not convinced that May 18th means anything either," he said.

Kaye called the closure "devastating. A complete financial and emotional breakdown." He has been spending the time painting and fixing up his diner.

"I need all the customers who come in to feel confident that they're not going to get sick and die. I want a normal world, a normal life," said Kaye.

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