Gov. Baker declined to say today whether he will consider making barbershops and hair salons "essential" services - because he said it's time to start thinking about creating "rules of the road" that will allow such places to re-open if they take particular steps.
But just what those steps will be will take a deep investigation that he's not going to get into until after Massachusetts "gets over the hump" of the current Covid-19 surge, he said at his daily press conference.
Baker said state officials will likely take a close look at how other countries have allowed particular businesses to re-open, based on precautions unique to those businesses, once it appears Massachusetts has actually gotten past peak Covid. But he said again we're not at that point. But while he said it's time to get beyond the binary essential/non-essential dichotomy, he declined to say whether he will continue the current ban on "non-essential" businesses past the current May 4 date.
One reporter asked: What if Gov. Sununu in New Hampshire allows barbershops to re-open? Should we worry about Massachusetts residents driving to New Hampshire for a haircut?
Baker said he had a conference call with the five other New England governors yesterday. They're all trying to coordinate efforts, but each state is at a different point in the epidemic, he said. He said he would hope NH takes neighboring state conditions into consideration. He said he doesn't know what he'd do if over-haired Bay Staters started clogging 93 to cram into New Hampshire hair places.
Also today, Baker announced that the state is working with Quest Diagnostics and a number of community health centers, including several in Boston, to increase the amount of Covid-19 testing they do. Manny Lopes of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center said the move will let his center do up to 500 tests a day. Baker added that community health centers are also being signed up for the state contact-tracing program, in which people who have had contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case will be called and advised what to do.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders explained why the state was seeing issues with test kits the state had sent to many nursing homes: It turns out it takes a particular skill to stick a long swab up a person's nose. She said the state is now relying on a mobile National Guard testing unit, which is trained in that, to do most nursing-home testing.
She added that one possible reason for Massachusetts nursing homes getting hid so hard is that many of our nursing homes are older, have waivers that allowed them to keep two residents in rooms. Baker said some of the hardest hit nursing homes have been some of the best run, so figuring out exactly what happened will require serious analysis of data.