Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday the state is prepared not only for the upcoming Halloween holiday, but for a second surge of COVID-19 cases. The state's health care system, he said, has the capacity to care for a wave of new patients if they come this fall.
"We expected and anticipated that there would be an increase in the fall. And that's why we built such a significant infrastructure around testing and tracing," Baker said during a press conference.
On Monday, the Department of Public Health reported an additional 465 new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, with 20 new deaths. The seven-day average positive test rate has held steady at 1.1 percent.
Baker said his public health team speaks with local hospitals nearly every day about how many COVID cases they have admitted.
"How many cases, how many suspect cases they have. How many cases they have that aren't that aren't actually COVID cases, but are people who were there for some other reason," Baker said, adding that "we're still talking about pretty small numbers when it comes to hospitalized COVID patients. A couple of hundred."
Baker was at a Salem pub on Tuesday to spotlight the town's use of state funds for the restaurant industry while awaiting the arrival of potentially thousands of tourists coming to celebrate the spooky season.
Baker was asked why treat-or-treating is being allowed in municipalities that chose not to ban the annual tradition.
"The reason we're not canceling Halloween is because that would have turned into thousands of indoor Halloween parties, which would have been a heck of a lot worse for public safety and for the spread of the virus than outdoor, organized and supervised trick-or-treating," Baker said.
Baker said there are many things adults can do to manage children and themselves this holiday that can be done safely outdoors.
Baker's administration on Tuesday also touted a new, second round of reforms for nursing homes and long-term care facilities after hundreds under supervised care died of COVID-19 complications earlier on in the pandemic.
The changes include $82 million in rate increases for facilities to eliminate three- and four-bed rooms, as well as updated testing guidance. Baker's administration is also instituting a mandate that all staff at nursing homes, rest homes, adult day health programs, dialysis units and other facilities receive a flu vaccine this season.