There was a ton of new information given out by the state of Massachusetts today. The Governor has put some major changes into place.
Baker said the three-week suspension of educational services is out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of children and school staff and given the evolving data regarding the cases of COVID-19.
The school closures go into effect Tuesday and will remain in place through April 7, the governor said.
Gov. Baker ordered a slate of other coronavirus changes, including:
Any restaurant, bar or establishment that offers food or drink shall not permit on-premises consumption. These establishments may continue to offer food for takeout or delivery, effective Tuesday. Establishments must also follow social distancing protocols outlined in the department of public health guidance. This order does not apply to grocery stores or pharmacies, Baker said. “This is about bars and restaurants and those places people do not absolutely have to go,” he said.
Gatherings of over 25 people will be prohibited, including all community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more people in a single room or a single space at the same time. This includes venues like fitness centers, private clubs and theaters. This order amends last week’s guidance that prohibited gatherings of 250 people or more.
Some requirements will be relaxed around current unemployment claims, allowing many workers who are affected by closures to get some financial relief faster.
Emergency legislation will be filed to allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits that currently exist under state law.
Emergency regulations will be filed to expand eligibility around collecting unemployment for people who have been impacted by COVID-19.
Long-term care facilities and nursing homes will be prohibited from allowing any visitors.
Hospitals will be required to screen visitors and restrict visitation.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles will extend the renewal timeline for certain credentials to reduce the need for customers to physically visit an RMV service center for in-person transactions.
Hospitals will be directed to postpone elective surgeries to ensure medical workers and hospital space is available.
All commercial health insurance carriers will be ordered to allow providers to deliver services via Telehealth, allowing people to avoid physically going anywhere should they need to consult a medical professional.
Legislative package will be filed to help address challenges surrounding the municipal governance issues that have been raised by many cities and towns, including potential delays and holding town meetings and adopting fiscal year 2021 municipal budgets.
While it was announced last week, legislation will be filed Monday to officially postpone the Boston Marathon until September 14, 2020.
These orders will remain in effect through April 17.
“I realize these measures are unprecedented. But we are asking our residents to take a deep breath and understand the rationale behind this guidance,” Baker said. “As we said yesterday, grocery stores are getting restocked. The reason we are seeing bare shelves on the news and when we shop is because people are taking stocking up a little overboard. Just remember if you buy two years worth of canned soup, that just means your neighbor may have to go without.”
Gov. Baker also addressed rampant rumors regarding a shelter-in-place order, saying he has no plans for that.
“Everybody needs to get their news from legitimate places, not from their friend’s friend’s friend’s friend,” he said.
Baker said for the vast majority of people, approximately 80-percent of the population, coronavirus would mostly feel like the flu and would not lead to hospitalization.
“But the reason we are taking this so seriously is because it is incredibly contagious,” he said. “There will be more cases of COVID-19, 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 can be better positioned to care for the people who need it.”
Health officials said Sunday the number of residents tested has jumped from 475 to nearly 800.
The 26 new cases were announced amid the Commonwealth’s effort to ramp up testing for the coronavirus after restrictions were loosened on testing protocols.
New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only requires clinicians to submit one nasal swab, as opposed to submitting both nasal and throat swabs that were required before. With the change in clinical testing protocols, the State Lab’s testing capacity has doubled, increasing to approximately 400 patients a day, up from 200.
Massachusetts clinicians now also have more flexibility to determine which patients should be tested without having to call DPH’s Epi Line.
With more clinical labs in the Bay State working to get FDA approval, health officials say even more testing capacity will be available soon.
As of Sunday, the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory has tested 799 patients, officials said, up from 475 one day prior.
Forty-five of the state’s 164 positive cases have been subsequently confirmed by the CDC.
Four of the 26 new cases announced Sunday are related to the employee meeting held at a Boston hotel by the Cambridge biotech firm Biogen last month. Health officials say 108 of the 164 cases are now tied to the Feb. 24-27 meeting held at the Marriott Long Wharf hotel, which has since closed “in the interest of public health.”
Included in the new cases is a health care worker at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The hospital announced the case Sunday morning and said patients and staff who may have had contact with the infected worker are being contacted.
Eight more cases are associated with travel, bringing that total to 13. Eight remain associated with a cluster in western Massachusetts, and 35 of them are now under investigation, health officials say.
Of the state’s 164 cases, 74 are women and 90 are men. Middlesex County residents still account for nearly half, 75, of the cases statewide. Norfolk and Suffolk counties both have 31 cases, while there are nine cases in Berkshire County. There are now six cases each in Essex and Worcester counties.
Plymouth, Hampden, Barnstable and Bristol counties have one case each. Two cases are of unknown counties at this time.
Two more patients have been hospitalized, bringing the total to 13 so far, though 36 other cases are listed as being under investigation, according to Sunday’s figures.
The update in coronavirus cases Sunday came shortly after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak and announced sweeping changes for bars and restaurants in the city in an effort to protect residents.
Boston EMS urge people to not call 911 to request COVID-19 testing. People are asked to call their primary care providers, the mayor’s health line at 617-534-5050, or the state DPH information line at 211.
Virus-related symptoms include fever (100.4°F or higher), cough, trouble breathing, or shortness of breath.
The main take away from our selfish point of view is that there will be no gatherings of greater than 25 people, and restaurants and bars are only allowed to offer take out services. Grocery stores and pharmacies can stay open.
I first read about restrictions like this being enacted in parts of Italy late last week. This is just the start of the difficulties. The one thing I am afraid of is towns blocking their borders. We share custody over the kids with their father and he lives two towns away from us. Unfortunately given the circumstances, that two town distance includes the state line between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. If that border closes while the kids are on the wrong side of it, it will be pretty fucking awful for us. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.