Scientists say Baker’s reopening plan is sensible, but still concerning

Even as some businesses called for a more immediate reopening of the economy, public health experts’ first reaction Monday to Governor Baker’s conservative plan was worry — that more interaction would make a second wave of infections possible, perhaps likely.

Scientists who have followed the disease’s spread told the Globe that Baker’s plan made sense, and they were encouraged by recent statistics showing a downward trend in infections. Still, they were unenthused with the loosening of social distancing measures and suggested that it may lead to a future spike in Massachusetts, where 5,800 people have died and more than 1,000 new infections are still reported each day.

“We’re going in the right direction but we still have a lot of cases per day,” said Erin Bromage, a professor of immunology at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “It would be wise to get it lower before we start the interactions back up again.”

Baker’s plan allows for the immediate reopening of houses of worship, construction, and manufacturing sites, albeit with tight restrictions. Curbside retail, hair salons, and some lab and office spaces can follow next Monday under strict guidelines.

Several epidemiologists said that a return to worship services could be especially problematic — religious gatherings are the only ones in the state not limited to 10 people.

“Certainly, if you have 100 people inside a big room, that is a setting conducive for a super-spreading event,” even if everyone wears masks, said Samuel Scarpino, an epidemiologist at Northeastern University.


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