Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s “still looking at the data” to determine when the state will roll out phase 3 of the coronavirus reopening plan — which could start as early as Monday.
But, he added, the numbers are looking good enough to open up the borders to visitors from seven Northeast states just in time for the July Fourth holiday. Baker’s comments come as other states pull back on reopening plans amid a surge in coronavirus cases nationwide.
“There’s plenty of evidence not just around this country, but around the globe, of places where people have let down their guard and the virus has come roaring back,” the governor said Tuesday during a briefing at the State House.
“We are still looking at the data and we’ll have more to say about this by the end of the week, which is what we originally committed to,” Baker said.
The third phase of Baker’s four-phase plan — when casinos, museums, gyms and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen — has already seen a one-week delay after Baker split phase 2 into a two-part rollout.
Governors in other states have hit the brakes on reopening plans in recent days after new cases skyrocketed in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.
Baker did share some good news with local travelers ahead of the Fourth of July weekend: Anyone coming to Massachusetts from Northeastern states less-affected by coronavirus will be “exempt” from a 14-day self-quarantine advisory beginning right away, he said.
“Surrounding states — like Massachusetts — are seeing significant declines in cases and new hospitalizations,” Baker said.
The change in guidance applies to people coming into the state from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, in response to mounting calls to stave off an expected “tidal wave” of evictions after a temporary ban expires, the Baker administration announced a new $20 million housing assistance program Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said would “provide housing stability.” Low-income renters struggling to pay rents or mortgages amid the pandemic will be eligible to collect up to $4,000.
Baker said he isn’t bending to pressure to extend the moratorium that is slated to expire on Aug. 18 saying, “I don’t think we’re in a position to make a decision on that today.”
But a group of legislators is taking matters into their own hands, filing a bill Tuesday that would extend the moratorium on evictions and freeze rents at pre-pandemic rates for one year after the governor lifts the current public health emergency. The legislation would also protect homeowners and small landlords with 15 or fewer units by creating a fund to help cover costs amid the pandemic.