Gov. Charlie Baker announced new measures Monday to increase coronavirus testing and ease the strain on Massachusetts hospitals amid a rise in coronavirus cases after Thanksgiving.
“Effective Friday, hospitals will curtail elective procedures that can be safely postponed,” Baker said at a news conference.
He also said the state is expanding free testing, increasing the number of communities with free testing sites to 25, up 17 from July.
This is a breaking news update. Read an earlier version of the story below.
Gov. Charlie Baker is providing an update on coronavirus testing in Massachusetts Monday as call grow for his administration to step up measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Baker and other officials are holding a news conference at the state house.
His remarks come amid a spike in coronavirus cases that have prompted some experts to urge the Baker administration to consider further social distancing measures.
On Sunday, Massachusetts health officials reported 4,747 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, as well as 48 additional deaths. The new numbers brought the state’s number of total cases during the pandemic to 247,559 cases and its death toll to 10,763 confirmed deaths and 247,559 cases.
Despite daily case totals routinely topping 4,000, Baker has maintained his administration is not planning any additional restrictions or business closures.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University’s School of Public Health, took to Twitter Saturday to voice his concerns, saying that despite defending Baker for months, he had gone from “uncomfortable to aghast at lack of action,” in the past six weeks.
“It’s incomprehensible. They must see different data because no rational explanation for lack of action,” Jha wrote on Twitter, referencing the Baker Administration.
With cases rising, the state this week reopened a field hospital at Worcester’s DCU Center, which Baker said has “a lot more capacity” than it did when it was active in the spring.
Baker last week announced he will have more to say soon about plans to establish a field hospital in Lowell in conjunction with Lowell General Hospital. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said discussions are also underway about whether to open another field hospital on the South Coast, but she said right now there are no plans to open a field hospital in Boston.
Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker announces a new COVID-19 field hospital opening in Lowell, after touring another field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Baker reiterated Thursday that he will continue to monitor the data and make his decisions based on the available information. He said if any new restrictions were to be put into place, the public would be given ample warning.
With the possibility of a vaccine on the horizon, Baker again said that there is “some reason for optimism.” But he urged residents to continue taking precautions to prevent the cases from continuing to rise.
“There is still much work ahead to stop the spread of COVID from infecting more people here in Massachusetts,” he said. “People need to stay vigilant. We’re not ready to flip the switch to normal.”
State House News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.