BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Flanked by experts, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker gave an update on Coronavirus in Massachusetts Wednesday morning.
More than 700 people in the Commonwealth have self-quarantined, though officials reminded that the risk for contracting COVID-19 in the state remains low. Massachusetts has one presumptive case, and one positive case that was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gov. Baker would like to keep those numbers low—and in an effort to do so, he's asking that the state's learning institutions temporarily halt any upcoming international travel plans for students.
"We understand there have been many questions and concerns about upcoming international travel for universities, like student abroad programs, that require an immense amount of planning and investment for students and their families," Gov. Baker said. "With this in mind, due to the evolving situation, we are urging colleges, universities, and high schools to cancel upcoming organized international trips at this time. Taking this precaution will help protect both the students and the Commonwealth, as we are home to such a large number of colleges and universities."
Health officials have tied coronavirus risk to international travel, and close contact with those who have been to places hit hard by the outbreak, like Italy and China. In Italy, officials announced Wednesday they were moving to close all schools in an attempt to combat the virus.
Massachusetts' confirmed patient had recently returned from Wuhan, China. In the second, presumed case, the patient had recently traveled to Italy with a school group.
New Hampshire's two presumptive cases fit the same bill. In their first, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center worker tested positive for the virus after returning from Italy. Their second case was in a second person who came into contact with the first.
(Gov. Charlie Baker)
Baker also urged the public to take the basic steps to help prevent contracting coronavirus.
"I know that for many residents, all the talk about this public health threat can be stressful," Baker said. "I want everyone to know that we're doing everything we can to protect the people here in the commonwealth, and I also want people to know that they can help protect against the spread themselves, as has been discussed many times before. Use common sense, practice good personal hygene, and if you are sick, stay home."
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the agency is working on disinfecting every MBTA car and surface throughout the system every day. He said guard rails, hand rails, and fare equipment will be cleaned every four hours.
"We're in the process of getting hand sanitizer-type equipment out into our facilities, and also ramping up a process by which we are disinfecting vehicles and stations," Poftak said. "Subject to getting enough disinfectant in place, we are going to move to a protocol where we will be disinfecting every vehicle, every day."
Officials said they hadn't made a decision yet on how to approach large upcoming events like the South Boston Saint Patrick's Day Parade, or the Boston Marathon.
Echoing the U.S. Surgeon General's call for people to stop buying up face masks, Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel asked those not showing symptoms of the virus to leave the masks for those hwo need them.
"It's really important to remember that if any of us are not having symptoms or are feeling well, the face mask does not protect us," she said. "So, none of us need to be wearing face masks."
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports