STATE OF EMERGENCY
Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts as the number of people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus in the state jumped by 41 to 92. Of that number, 70 are connected to a meeting held by biotech company Biogen at the Marriot Long Wharf in Boston and four cases are travel-related, while 18 are still unconfirmed. At least six are currently hospitalized.
Baker said the state of emergency will give him greater power to take actions like shutting down events with large gatherings of people or gaining access to buildings or stockpiling protective gear if needed without getting bogged down in existing paperwork requirements. Baker is also restricting virtually all travel by executive branch employees and encouraging teleworking. There are about 42,000 executive branch workers. Baker urged companies and organizations to consider adopting the same measures.
“At this time the number of people infected and requiring medical attention is very much within our health care system’s capacity,” he said. “The purpose of moving forward with these measures now is to act before the numbers increase.”
Baker, who last week had said the risk of contracting the virus is low, on Tuesday said that given the new numbers of those who have tested positive, the risk of infection has increased.
Baker, who returned early from a vacation in Utah, also urged older individuals to avoid crowded venues like concerts or sporting events. State health officials are also urging nursing homes to bar those who have traveled overseas or who are showing symptoms of a respiratory infection such as coughing and shortness of breath.
Baker also said schools should cancel all out-of-state travel in addition to overseas travel.
BOSTON MARATHON STILL PLANNED
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Tuesday the Boston Marathon scheduled for next month is still on — for now — a day after the city announced the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been canceled.
Conversations with those involved in the marathon — which expects about 31,000 runners as well as a million spectators and pumps more than $200 million into the city’s economy — are ongoing, Walsh said at an impromptu news conference outside City Hall.
Walsh said the city is also working on determining which city employees can work from home; cleaning and sanitizing schools throughout the day every day; and working on solutions for the city’s homeless population, such as spreading them across the city in mini shelters rather than concentrating them in just a few shelters.
TESTING AND CLEANING
Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said person to person spread of the virus in Massachusetts is beginning to occur among individuals without identifying risk factors such as foreign travel.
She said about 400 people have been tested in Massachusetts. She said the state has received kits to allow 2,000 additional people to be tested and more tests are coming in from the federal government. She said the state has also requested additional personal protective equipment from a national stockpile.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Logan International Airport are cleaning and sanitizing equipment. She said the MBTA is requiring all high-contact surfaces at subway stations be cleaned every four hours and is adding sanitizer dispensing stations.
Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts House and Senate said they’re hoping to debate a supplemental budget next week aimed at creating a $15 million fund to respond to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the state by helping contain and prevent the spread of the virus.
Senate President Karen Spilka said the goal of the funding is to help state and local officials better prepare for the impacts of the virus, adding that the “Senate’s number one priority is to safeguard the health of our residents.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said public health emergencies demand immediate action from the government.
Another popular race in Massachusetts — the New Bedford Half Marathon — has been canceled.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said that while there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area, the unique nature of the event poses a risk that is higher than other public gatherings. He said the race attracts as many as 3,000 runners — including many from places where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed.
“This decision is not made lightly,” Mitchell said.
ABOUT THE VIRUS
For most people, the new 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.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Click here for more information on the coronavirus and tips on how to protect yourself.
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