Baker Provides Updates on State’s Response to COVID-19

Governor Baker held a press conference on Tuesday where he provided some updates on the state’s response to COVID-19.

He said that as of Monday, more than 540,000 tests have been performed in Massachusetts, and the state “remains a top 5 player” per capita in the country for testing. He said that they are looking to bring more mobile and site based vendors to the state to increase testing even further.

With Phase One of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan now underway, Baker said that residents across the state “have a responsibility” to continue doing things like socially distance, wear face masks, wash hands often, and disinfect surfaces.

“The progress that we’ve made is only made possible by everyone’s willingness to do their part,” he said. Right now, Baker said that the public health numbers are trending in the right direction, but  he has said at previous press conferences that if numbers begin to rise again, the state could go back a phase and re-implement restrictions that have been lifted.

Baker said on Tuesday that after having “daily conversations with the healthcare community,” many of the field hospitals that have been erected across the state have “begun to close.”

One such hospital is the 1,000 bed Boston Hope medical center, which was set up in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport. Over the past several weeks, more than 700 COVID-19 patients have been treated on the hospital side, and has served many people on the homeless side as well.

Baker announced that as of Tuesday, in conjunction with Mayor Marty Walsh and the City of Boston, Boston Hope is suspending acceptance of new patients. The facility will continue to care for the patients who are there right now until they are discharged, and the beds will remain throughout the summer “should we need it,” Baker said.

Baker also talked about food security in the Commonwealth. Last week, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a $56 million program to “combat urgent food insecurity for some Massachusetts families and individuals as a result of COVID-19,” according to the state. Many people across the state have found themselves struggling for the first time with food insecurity, while others have been dealing with it for a very long time and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation.

The Food Security Task Force was created “n response to increased demands for food assistance,” the state said, and this funding was “consistent with the findings” of the task force. The task force is made up of “a broad group of public and private members charged with ensuring food insecurity and food supply needs are addressed during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” according to the state.

This “funding will jumpstart some of the Task Force’s new recommendations to address urgent needs and food supply chain issues,” Baker said on Tuesday. “Increasing food security is essential to protecting the health of the people of Massachusetts.”

The program includes $36 million for a food security infrastructure grant program, as well as $5 million to increase the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), which includes access to local produce and will increase places that accept SNAP and HIP benefits.

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