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Charlie Baker says coronavirus data trending ‘in the right direction’ as retail, restaurants reopen

BOSTON, 6/6/2020  Massachusetts Governor Charlie  Baker (cq)  takes to the podium, to announce plans for phase 2 of the state’s reopening plans from the Coronavirus -COVID 19 Pandemic. today at the State House during a afternoon press-conference.  (POOL PHOTOGRAPH) ( Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
BOSTON, 6/6/2020 Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (cq) takes to the podium, to announce plans for phase 2 of the state’s reopening plans from the Coronavirus -COVID 19 Pandemic. today at the State House during a afternoon press-conference. (POOL PHOTOGRAPH) ( Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
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Key COVID-19 data continues to trend downward as the state moves into the first part of the second phase of its reopening process, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.

The state’s seven-day average positive test rate is hovering at 4.9%, which Baker called “a very significant reduction” after the positivity rate peaked at upwards of 30% in April. The number of people who remain hospitalized is below 1,500, which Baker said is “down dramatically” since mid-April.

“The public health data continues to trend in the right direction,” Baker said, adding, “We continue to anticipate and hope that we see those positive trends as we continue to move forward in Phase 2.”

Baker filed a bill Monday that would expand COVID-19 data collection and would give the Department of Public Health power to issue fines to entities that don’t comply with reporting requirements — though it would exempt elder housing complexes from reporting tenant cases.

The proposal builds on the bill Baker signed a law Sunday requiring elder care facilities to submit daily coronavirus reports to local health departments and creating a task force to look at how to support the elderly and people of color disproportionately impacted by the disease.

“We’re hopeful that the new legislation will help put a finer point on data collection for seniors and ensure that DPH has access to complete information to identify infection rates and health disparities across the commonwealth,” Baker said.

The state is also in the process of adding another 20 testing sites, focusing on areas with high-risk populations and workers who Baker said are currently “underserved.”

Baker pushed back against a claim Monday from World Health Organization that the asymptomatic transmission of the virus is “very rare.” The organization’s COVID-19 technical lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said Tuesday the actual rate of asymptomatic transmission remains unknown.

“I am enormously skeptical of such a broad generalization about something where there is so much data and information already available that says just the opposite, Baker said.

Baker delivered his update from the New Balance factory in Lawrence, which pivoted to producing more than 1 million masks during the pandemic. The state’s manufacturing accelerator has helped businesses produce nearly 4 million pieces of personal protective equipment in about 120 days.

As retail stores reopen and diners return to restaurants, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito urged consumers to shop local, saying, “It’s important that we continue to think about the places and the people and the businesses in your community that you’re so connected to — and that once perhaps you took for granted — now you need to be intentional around making sure you support them.”