State Of Emergency Declared In Massachusetts Over Coronavirus

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Gov. Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts over the spread of COVID-19.

"Today, I'm declaring a state of emergency in Massachusetts," Baker told reporters gathered on Beacon Hill Tuesday afternoon. "This declaration will give our administration more flexibility to respond to this evolving outbreak."

In addition to the declaration, officials announced 51 new presumptive coronavirus cases—bringing the total number of presumptive cases in the state to 92, in addition to the one case confirmed by the CDC.

The Baker administration is also putting several new guidelines in place for employees in the state's executive branch, including cancelling all work travel, not going to any seminars, and limiting personal travel, and encouraging teleworking.

State Government will operate uninterrupted, Baker said, with required public meetings and other government functions continuing to take place.

"There's no question that the efforts to mitigate the spread of this virus will be disruptive," Baker said. "We expect this disruption to continue for the forseeable future, and understand it will cause inconvenience for many."

Baker asked other Massachusetts businesses to follow these guidelines, too.

"Everyone has a role to play to stay healthy, and that's why I urge employers and other large organizations to follow our example where possible," he said. "Limit or eliminate nonessential travel, limit or eliminate large events where possible, and explore telework where appropriate for your organization."

Older adults are being urged to avoid large crowds and large events, and Baker asked those who live in households with vulnerable people like elderly parents to avoid large crowds.

Baker said the Boston Marathon is still a month away, and that his administration continued to discuss the event with the City of Boston and the Boston Athletic Association.

As for the cancellation of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in South Boston, Baker said his administration believes Mayor Marty Walsh and the parade organizers made the right call.

Officials urged older residents or those with underlying health issues to try to avoid taking the MBTA, but said they realize many rely on the T to get to work.

"That's why the T is working to disinfect surfaces and vehicles across its system," Baker said.

Baker's administration also said local schools were being relieved of attendance and school year requirements, freeing them up to make decisions on temporary closures over coronavirus concerns.

"No schools will be required to be in session after June 30," he said. "Commissioner Jeff Riley is strongly urging all districts to cancel all out of state travel at this time. This is in addition to our additional request for schools to cancel international trips."

The goal of all the measures, Baker said, is to limit the chances that too many people will need medical care for the virus at the same time, stretching healthcare resources thin. The governor said that, if everyone does their part to mitigate COVID-19's spread, the likelihood that the number of patients needing care spikes and overwhelms the system will be lower.

"At this time, the number of people infected and requiring medical attention is very much within our healthcare system's capacity," Baker said. "The number of people in isolation and sick right now has minimal impact on commerce. The purpose of moving forward with these measures now is to act before the numbers increase to a point where the virus spread is severely impacting the Commonwealth."

WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal reports

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