In Lowell, Baker questions decision-making on school reopenings

BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 3: Governor Charlie Baker speaks during his press conference September 3, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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LOWELL – Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday chided cities and towns that have abruptly abandoned plans to bring students back to the classroom because of small outbreaks of COVID-19, urging local leaders to look for trends in virus transmission and not make snap decisions based on a single party or cluster of infection.

He also expressed deep frustration with Washington amid signs that the new vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg could overshadow and sink hopes for a bipartisan compromise on another round of economic stimulus.

The governor also said he was planning to extend by three weeks the application period in his own search to fill two seats on the Supreme Judicial Court, following the unexpected death of Chief Justice Ralph Gants last week.

Baker was in Lowell Wednesday, at Mill City Barbeque, to announce grants for communities that blend art, history and public health awareness into civic projects, like one in Lowell that will create walking trails with art installations focused on the city’s Black history.

After highlighting yesterday’s COVID-19 data that showed 143 new cases, Baker turned his attention to schools and his belief in the importance of bringing students back to the classroom in communities where transmission is very low.

“People shouldn’t be making decisions on this stuff based on one week,” said Baker, who has imposed a series of executive orders over the past six months but also emphasized the importance of local decision-making.

Baker said that in the state’s color-coded system for tracking the transmission by city and town communities can bounce up and down from week to week, and local leaders instead should be looking at three weeks worth of data at a time.

“In many cases, it’s because of a single event or a single institution that creates that, and that’s why we think it’s important for people to look for trends, and trends don’t happen in seven days,” Baker said.

The governor also announced that starting Monday restaurants can seat groups of up to 10 people at indoor and outdoor dining tables – an increase from the current limit of six — and utilize bar seating for food service with the proper distance between patrons.

“No standing around the bar, ok?” he said.

This is a developing story