On Sunday, March 15, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a number of aggressive and unprecedented statewide regulations to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, and has continued to add on to these regulations as the situation develops. As of Wednesday, March 18, over 2,000 residents of Massachusetts have been quarantined due to the coronavirus.
According to nbcboston.com, Baker “ordered all Massachusetts public and private elementary and secondary schools to close for three weeks.” The three weeks began on Tuesday, March 17, and will end on Tuesday, April 7. This measure does not affect special education schools. Baker also urged higher education institutions, both public and private, to make the transition from traditional on-campus learning to remote or online learning. The aim of this transition is to reduce the need for students to come to their college or university’s physical location, but to still provide them with the ability to complete their courses.
Initially, Baker did not order the closure of child care facilities, but on Wednesday, March 18, Baker announced that all child care facilities had to be closed by Monday, March 23. Some centers will be exempt and remain open to care for the children of critical coronavirus workers.
Also beginning on Tuesday, March 17, restaurants, bars, and any other organization that serves food or drinks was prohibited from serving food on location, and instead is only allowed to offer delivery or takeout. This measure will remain in effect until Monday, April 6.
Baker also banned gatherings of 25 people or more, which, according to wbur.org, “does not apply to grocery stores or pharmacies, but does apply to gatherings at gyms, churches, concert halls, movie theaters or any other public or private space.” On Friday, March 13, Baker had prohibited gatherings larger than 250 people, however, this new measure banning gatherings of 25 people or more which was announced just two days later, amends that prohibition.
Several restrictions regarding hospitals were also put into place. Starting on Wednesday, March 18, all hospitals were instructed to postpone elective surgeries. All hospitals must also screen and restrict visitors, while all assisted living facilities or nursing homes must ban visitors altogether. According to wbur.org, all commercial health insurance carriers must now allow providers to “deliver and cover services via telehealth, to avoid people traveling to doctors’ offices.”
As the outbreak of the coronavirus is, according to nbcboston.com, “expected to have a deep impact on the economy and jobs market,” Baker has also made some changes surrounding unemployment policies. Eligibility around filing unemployment will be expanded through emergency regulations to aid people impacted by COVID-19. Other policies surrounding unemployment allow for those impacted by closures to receive financial aid more quickly.
Though as of Wednesday, March 18, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts was reported at 256 by the Boston Herald, Baker continues to assert that no shelter-in-place plans are set to be implemented. Conversely, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh “laid out his thought process for what it would take to issue a shelter-in-place order” according to nbcboston.com, as 45 cases had been reported in Boston on Wednesday afternoon. Additionally, 17 state and local Democrats called for Baker to issue a shelter-in-place by the end of the day.
Tuesday, in an open letter, however, the governor has yet to announce any plans for a shelter-in-place situation.