BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Gov. Charlie Baker has issued a stay-at-home advisory and ordered all non-essential businesses in the state to close, as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across the Commonwealth.
Both the advisory and business order will be in effect through Tuesday, April 7.
Beginning Tuesday at noon, businesses that don't make the state's list of essential industries must close their facilities and workplaces to workers, customers, and the public. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and many other areas of business will remain open.
"We will always allow all grocery stores, pharmacies, and other types of businesses that provide essential goods and services to Massachusetts residents to continue to operate, and we will not stop anyone from accessing these essential businesses," Baker said.
Baker's order also limited public gatherings to no more than ten people, down from 25. Further information on the assemblage guidance can be found here.
In addition, Gov. Baker directed the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to issue the stay-at-home advisory, "outlining self-isolation and social distancing protocols."
"Everyone is advised to stay home, and limit all unnecessary activities," Gov. Baker said.
Under this advisory, Massachusetts residents "are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary activities," and those over age 70 are urged to limit all interactions with others.
"What this means is that everyone can still buy food at the grocery store, get what they need at the pharmacy, and of course take a walk around the block or at the park," the governor said. "But if you're at the park, there shouldn't be any pick-up basketball games, touch football games, or any activities or events that create the person-to-person contact we are seeking to eliminate. That spreads the virus."
The order and advisory come as Massachusetts braces for an expected wave of new virus cases that threatens to overwhelm the state's healthcare system. There are currently over 600 cases of COVID-19 in the state, and five people have died.
"Acting now to prevent more person-to-person interaction and spreading the virus will buy us more time, so our healthcare system can better prepare for a challenge unlike any they've ever seen before," Baker said. "Our goal is to slow the spread by eliminating person-to-person contact, and a concerted effort now will help us get back to work and back to school."
Here's our breakdown of what industries and workplaces are considered "essential" under the order:
Restaurants will remain open for take out and delivery service, but they must follow social distancing guidelines.
Monday also began the closure of Massachusetts daycare centers, with a few exceptions staying open to care for the children of essential workers. For a list of the exempted childcare options, click here.
Public transportation will still be running, but Baker urged residents to only use the MBTA if it is absolutely necessary.
"Our transportation system, our roads, bridges, tunnels are open, and our buses, trains, and subways will continue to run," Baker said. "We will continue to make sure that these assets are properly maintained, but just because the T is open doesn't mean we think it's a good idea to take the train downtown to meet up with friends. By limiting the use of public transportation to essential services and activities, we can not only slow the spread of the virus, but better protect our healthcare workers, our grocery store workers, and others who are working every day to keep us safe."
Baker has spent the past week distancing himself and the Commonwealth from the types of shelter-in-place orders enacted in some states and cities across the country. On Friday, he said his administration wasn't planning such an order, and wouldn't put one in place "just because someone else did it;" On Monday morning, he reiterated that he did not see a shelter-in-place order as necessary or feasible in Massachusetts.
"I do not believe I can or should order U.S. citizens to be confined to their homes for days on end," Baker said. "It doesn't make sense from a public health point of view, and it's not realistic, especially if people need to get to work at essential businesses, or go to places like grocery stores, pharmacies, or hospitals, or healthcare providers."
The governor expressed pride in the way the state's residents have been dealing with the unprecedented crisis.
"The people of Massachusetts are meeting this challenge exactly the way we would expect—with determination, cool heads, and a selfless sense of community—and I have no doubt we will all continue to meet the challenge before us," he said.
WBZ NewsRadio's Mike Macklin reports