If you live in Massachusetts, you probably looked across the state line with a twinge of jealously Friday.

Gov. Chris Sununu extended his state’s stay-at-home order though the end of the month, but that came with the promise of hair salons, barber shops and retail stores starting a limited reopening in less than two weeks. Restaurants will be allowed limited outdoor seating a week after that.

Who doesn’t need a haircut? And who doesn’t want to sit down and eat a cheeseburger you didn’t cook at a table not in your kitchen or dining room?

Massachusetts, meanwhile, still drifts in the other direction. Its governor on Friday announced an order requiring anyone in a public place where you’ll be closer than six feet from someone else to wear a face covering. He gave local health officials and police authority to back up his order with fines of up to $300.

So, New Hampshire gets to shop, Massachusetts gets another forced layer of protection.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s stay-at-home order expires May 18, but who really expects it to lift all at once?

The news was disheartening, to be sure, but it wasn’t all bad.

The good news is that Massachusetts is at the leading edge in that regard. Nearly 1,000 contact tracers are now at work calling people known to have been in recent touch with a coronavirus patient, to ask those who’ve been exposed to quarantine themselves.

Baker aksi noted that state hospitalization rates from COVID-19 have been flat for more than two weeks. It’s not until that number starts to dip, he added, that we’ll feel comfortable pursuing plans to reopen the state.

He also pointed to the early findings of the contact tracers. Initial estimates were that each COVID-19 patient would have 10 or so close contacts that needed to be reached, Baker said. The average so far is two. The governor sees in that low number a sign of encouragement that all of the precautions being taken have “made a big difference.” It signals that efforts to chase down this virus could be backing it into a corner.

Rather than be disappointed by the slow pace of reopening, we all should be reassured by a sensible strategy that also drives down cases of infection so as not to give the coronavirus a new footing.


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