BOSTON (CBS) – Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts’ first-in-the-nation contact tracking initiative will be a critical tool for the state to get back to “something like a new normal” following the coronavirus crisis.

The state is working with Partners-In-Health to develop the program that will trace people who tested positive for coronavirus. It will also trace their immediate contacts who may have been exposed.

“If you happen to receive a phone call from the contact tracing collaborative, we urge residents to take this call and provide the relevant information,” Baker said at his daily news conference Thursday. “A couple of minutes of your time and cooperation is key, in many cases, to stopping the spread of coronavirus and saving more lives. It’s also key to helping our state build a strategy for how we can get back to something like a new normal.”

As of Wednesday, there were 29,918 total cases with 1,108 deaths in Massachusetts.

Baker said data indicates the state is in the early stages of the surge that health officials have been warning about for several weeks.

“We have seen, over the past few days, an increase in hospitalizations,” said Baker. “Medical workers are working around the clock to deal with that influx of patients, and they are keeping up. But every day we continue to see more and more patients in very rough shape, come into the hospital.”

The governor said contact tracing is a key step toward eventually reopening the economy.

“One of the reasons we put together this tracing initiative is because we really do believe that to give people comfort and confidence that we’re doing all we can to contain the virus, we need to have a very significant contact tracing program in place that can ensure that we identify people who test positive, and that we can do all we can to identify the people they’ve had close contact with, and then create isolation strategies and supports for those folks,” Baker said. “From our point of view that’s a must-do with respect to anything that looks like a reopening of the Commonwealth or a move toward reopening the economy.”

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