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Skepticism Of Panel Looking At Reopening Mass. Economy: 'Indicative Of An East-West Bias'

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker this week extended the state's shutdown of non-essential businesses until May 18. Baker said while some progress has been made fighting COVID-19, there's still more work that needs to be done.

"We're moving in the right direction with respect to the virus, but we are not where we need to be," Baker said Tuesday. "I think most folks, certainly in my role in other states, are using similar guidance to make decisions about their states."

The governor also announced the formation of a panel to come up with ideas on how and when to reopen the state's economy, which will be led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Its 17 members include Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and Baystate Health CEO Mark Keroack.

Panelist Chris Collins said western Massachusetts is "drastically underrepresented" on the advisory board.

"There's not a single representative from Franklin County on there, and I just think that that's a problem and indicative of an east-west bias that occurs," Collins said. "We have an economy out here and we get hit the hardest when things break bad, and they're breaking as bad as they ever have right now. We need more representation on that panel, I believe."

Even when the state does start to reopen, panelist Natalia Muñoz said she is likely to wait a bit longer to be out and about.

"I understand that we have to get the economy moving, but not at the expense of people's lives," she said. "And until science tells us exactly how should we behave with this pandemic, and we're certain of it, I don't think it's a good idea."

Also this week, a report examined the situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Solders' Home by looking several documents. More than 70 veterans who have died at the state-run facility tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Daily Hampshire Gazettereported members of the Holyoke Soliders' Home board were informed at a mid-March meeting by now-suspended Superintenent Bennett Walsh about precautionary steps being taken to address COVID-19. Some emails indicate personal protective gear for staff was in short supply, and that the facility was also dealing with staffing shortages.

Meanwhile, some medical officials in western Mass.said COVID-19 testing is ramping up, but there's still more work to do. Doctors said it's been easier to get patients tested, but there isn't enough testing for the homeless population, and for so-called "surveillance testing" — people who might not have symptoms but still want to be screened.


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Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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