Baker Provides COVID-19 Update, Addresses Clusters Related to Houses of Worship

Governor Charlie Baker held a press conference on Tuesday, where he provided an update on COVID-19 and addressed rumors of further closures, as well as talked about clusters of the virus stemming from houses of worship.

     Baker said that as of Monday, the state had 1166 new cases, and the seven day average positive test rate remains around 3.9 percent. There were 1174 people hospitalized with the virus, and 244 in the ICU, he said.

     He also said that hospitalizations have been increasing by about 2.5 percent per day over the last couple of weeks, and urged residents to continue to avoid gathering in groups and to wear face coverings when leaving the home. “Everybody has to keep doing these things because we know that they work,” Baker said.

     Baker dispelled some rumors that he said may have been circulating regarding more closures throughout the state.

     “At this time, the Commonwealth is not planning any additional closures or restrictions,” Baker said, adding that the state will “continue to follow closely the public health data” and that residents will be given sufficient notice should anything change.

     He said that the recent news surrounding COVID-19 vaccines was “encouraging,” but “in the meantime, we still need to do the things that so many people in MA have been doing and doing so well.”

     Baker also talked about clusters coming from houses of worship. He said that in October, the state Department of Public Health released weekly cluster reports as part of its data, and analysis found that most cases were coming from household spread and informal gatherings, as well as some clusters from youth hockey.

     Baker announced that the team “recently completed analysis clusters from houses of worship.”

     He continued, “we know that houses of worship have always served as places of refuge, especially in difficult times like this.”

     He said that many have moved their services online or created outdoor service and made changes so people can listen from their own cars.

     He said that the “data still found that there were too many clusters that stemmed from houses of worship and spread out into the community at large.”

     Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 36 clusters stemming from houses of worship, Baker said, which caused 316 confirmed cases and 150 close contacts.  

     The governor said that if people are going to attend in-person services, it is “critically important” that face masks are worn and people stay distant.

     He said he recognizes that it’s “difficult to ask people to modify these time-honored traditions,” but stressed the importance of doing so for the safety of the community at large.

     Baker also touched on the Thanksgiving holiday and said he was “pleased to see that airline travel was down over 60 percent,” bus and train travel was down about 80 percent, and automobile travel was down between five and eight percent.

     He said he also heard from turkey sellers, who said that smaller birds sold quickly and many big birds were left over, which is indicative that people were having smaller gatherings this year.             Heading into the rest of the holiday season, Baker has continually urged residents to take proper precautions and to not gather in groups.

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