Baker orders nonessential businesses closed, DPH advises residents to stay home as coronavirus cases rise

BOSTON (AP/WHDH) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all nonessential businesses to close by Tuesday afternoon and remain closed until at least April 7 in an effort to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus.

RELATED: What businesses are staying open in Mass. while ‘stay-at-home’ advisory is in effect?

The Republican governor also said Monday the state Department of Public Health has issued a stay-at-home advisory, but stressed that it wasn’t a shelter-in-place order.

“Everyone is advised to stay home and limit all unnecessary activities,” he said. “We’re asking everyone to use their common sense, think about the impact this virus is having on the sick and elderly, and to limit their interactions with other people.”

He said it was OK to take a walk while keeping appropriate social distancing, but advised against pickup basketball and touch football games, or other activities that bring people into close contact.

Essential businesses include supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, and manufacturers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Medical marijuana facilities can stay open but not recreational pot shops.

Restaurants can stay open for takeout and delivery only.

Buses and trains will continue to run, with the MBTA adding five early commuter rail trips to meet the demand of medical workers.

“Just because the T is open does not mean it is a good idea to take the train downtown to meet friends,” Baker said. “By limiting the use of public transportation to essential services and activities, we cannot 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.”

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ADDITIONAL DEATHS

Four more people in Massachusetts have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The four include two women, both in their 70s, from Essex and Worcester counties and two men — one in his 60s from Suffolk County and another in his 80s from Norfolk County. Health officials said all were hospitalized and had underlying health conditions.

State health officials said Monday the total number of COVID-19 deaths now stands at nine. The number of confirmed cases is 777 out of more than 8,900 tests that have been administered.

Nearly 80 people have been hospitalized since the start of the outbreak.

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LEGISLATURE APPROVES ELECTIONS BILL

A bill that would let cities and towns postpone some upcoming municipal elections has made its way to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

The Massachusetts House and Senate passed the bill Monday allowing the postponement of local elections scheduled before May 30. The bill would also let voters cast ballots early by mail for elections occurring before June 30.

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said the goal was to give cities and towns flexibility while protecting the right to vote.

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ABOUT THE VIRUS

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

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