Gov. Baker bans gatherings of over 250 people amid coronavirus outbreak

BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed an order Friday banning gatherings of 250 people or more to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Baker’s order — which is effective immediately — applies to large social gatherings and recreational activities, including but not limited to faith-based events, sporting events, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, fairs, festivals, parades, community events, and other activities that call for large groups in a single space.

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The order doesn’t apply to normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, shopping centers, libraries, malls, polling centers, grocery and retails stores, and other spaces where 250 or more people may be in transit, Baker said. Office environments, government buildings, and factories are not be impacted by the order.

Baker also urged restaurants to encourage social distancing whenever possible. He said public access to longterm care facilities will be limited moving forward for safety reasons.

The Department of Public Health has met with public school superintendents across the state to offer detailed guidance on how districts should respond to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, according to Baker.

“That guidance gives schools very specific advice about when to close individual schools and for how long,” Baker said. “Our public health officials do not recommend school systems shut down systemwide at this time. They recommend careful monitoring of students and temporary closures to allow for schools to clean and reopen.”

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Baker encouraged the public to remain informed and follow the guidance of federal officials on travel restrictions and social distancing.

Elderly Bay State residents and individuals with health issues should avoid large gatherings until further notice.

“Folks over the age of 70 and folks who have pre-existing conditions, this is a very dangerous thing,” Baker said.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Mary Lou Sudders said the state currently has the capacity to test 5,000 people for the coronavirus, including 200 each day.

In regards to the testing, Baker said, “The feds aren’t moving fast enough.” Sudders added the state should be able to test up to 400 people a day come next week.

Earlier this week, Baker declared a state of emergency, allowing for more flexibility in his administration’s response to the outbreak.

As of Friday, there were 105 presumptive and 18 confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts.

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