BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon to update Massachusetts residents on the fight against COVID-19, Gov. Charlie Baker wanted to make one thing especially clear: his administration is not planning a shelter-in-place order for the Commonwealth.
"Let me be clear: we are not planning any shelter in place orders," Baker said. "In times of crisis, it's imperative that everyone get their news from legitimate places, and sometimes that's not from your friend's friend's friend's friends."
He urged state residents to bookmark mass.gov/covid19, and to regularly check there for up-to-date and accurate information.
Officials reminded residents that, for the majority of the population, the virus's symptoms would be similar to the flu. Baker said everyone should continue following guidelines for sanitation and isolation, though, because the virus was so much more contagious than the flu, and can be deadly for elderly or at-risk residents.
"There will certainly be more cases of COVID-19 here in Massachusetts, but we also know that if we take decisive steps now and everyone plays their part by following the best medical guidance, we can slow down the spread—and our healthcare system will be better positioned to care for the people who really need it," he said.
The governor said the state would begin distributing $5 million in emergency funds to local boards of health Tuesday as a down payment for what's to come in the fight against coronavirus.
In addition, Gov. Baker issued a series of orders Tuesday meant to help expand the Commonwealth's healthcare capacity as cases grow.
"These orders will make it easier for licensed healthcare staff, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and respiratory technicians, to work at another licensed facility," he said. "These orders will cut red tape so hospitals can staff up faster."
He said the orders would also allow licensed physicians from out of state to practice in Massachusetts, and let retired physicians in good standing reactivate their licenses.
In order to allow for low-interest loans to be made available to small business owners, Baker also requested that the Small Business Administration issue a declaration of economic injury for Massachusetts.
"Everybody knows the economic disruption is real, but we are committed to pursuing a variety of solutions to help mitigate these effects," Baker said. "It is my hope and expectation that both the state and federal goverment will have more to say about this effort as time goes on, so that we can help as many people as possible recover from the widespread impacts of this disease."
Baker said the bare shelves in supermarkets were an indicator people were going "a bit overboard" to stock up on supplies, and asked people to "use common sense" and avoid hoarding.
"Without question, we are likely to have some very tough days ahead of us as we are still at the beginning of this battle against this virus," Baker said. "But we continue to have great faith and confidence that we will get through this by pulling together, caring for one another, and doing what's right for our neighbors and communities because that is who we are."
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports