On Monday morning, Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker issued a stay-at-home order for the state "requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide #COVID19 essential services to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public," in a statement released just before 10:30am. "After discussions with health experts, local and federal officials, and other governors concerning the fight against COVID-19, and reviewing the orders issued by other states, i am issuing the following emergency order: Effective Tuesday, March 24th at noon, all non-essential businesses shall close their physical workplaces and facilities to all workers, customers and the public. This order will remain in effect until Tuesday, April 7th at noon,"
What does this mean for local residents?
"Everyone should know we will always allow all grocery stores, pharmacies, and other types of businesses that provide essential goods and services to Massachusetts residents to continue to operate and we will not stop anyone from accessing these essential businesses," says Baker, easing concerns over access to food and medication while issuing a stern reality check for those ignoring the recommended social distancing measures. "Everyone can still buy food at the grocery store, get what they need at the pharmacy and of course or take a walk around the block or at the park, but if you're at the park, there shouldn't be any pickup basketball games, touch football games, or activities or events that create the person to person contact we are speaking to eliminate. That spreads the virus," Baker said firmly. "We are advising people to use common sense, and consider how they can avoid unnecessary close contact with one another." For those in need of medical assistance, the Governor stressed the importance of utilizing Telehealth in place of visiting local healthcare providers in an effort to protect healthcare workers on the front lines. "Telehealth, meaning phone calls or video chats with a health provider, is now a covered insurance benefit that Mass residents can use. Using this service This protects both you and your clinician from unwanted and unnecessary physical contact."
With this in mind, Governor Baker asked that all residents that do feel healthy enough to make trips to the grocery store be mindful of those this order is being placed to protect.
"We are asking everyone to support our most vulnerable. Think about ways that you can go to the grocery store for a family member that's part of this high risk group, or call up your neighbor before you go to the pharmacy and ask if you can pick up a few things for them while you're out. We must all do whatever we can together to protect these high-risk individuals."
How can you get there if you don't have your own form of transportation?
"We are not prohibiting travel. Roads, buses, trains and subways will all be open and properly maintained," Baker confirmed. "But just because the T is open, doesn't mean we think it's a good idea to take the train downtown to hang out with friends," he reiterated.
This action comes after a recent spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. Per the Massachusetts Department of Pubic Health, a total of 777 cases had been confirmed as of Sunday-232 of which exist in Middlesex county alone, the highest reported number of cases in the state.
**This post will be updated daily for the near future to reflect the most recent numbers.
How does this order help to stop the growing spread?
"By taking this action now, we can significantly improve our position in this fight to slow the spread of this virus. Acting now to prevent more person-to-person interaction and spreading of the virus will buy us more time so our healthcare system can better prepare for a challenge unlike any they've seen before," says Governor Baker. "A concerted effort now will help us get back to work and back to school."
What types of businesses are still open?
In a nine page document released on the Mass.gov website (found here), Governor Baker outlined essential businesses that will remain open under this new order. This includes:
-Healthcare/Public Health/Human Services
-Law Enforcement/Public Safety/First Responders
-Food and Agriculture
-Natural and Propane Gas Workers
-Water and Wastewater
-Transportation and Logistics
-Communications and Information Technology
-OTHER COMMUNITY-BASED ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS AND GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS:
• Workers to ensure continuity of building functions, including local and state inspectors and administrative support of inspection services who are responsible for the inspection of elevators, escalators, lifts, buildings, plumbing and gas fitting, electrical work, and other safety related professional work
• Security staff to maintain building access control and physical security measures • Elections personnel
• Federal, State, and Local, Tribal, and Territorial employees who support Mission Essential Functions and communications networks
• Trade Officials (FTA negotiators; international data flow administrators)
• Weather forecasters
• Workers that maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting other critical government operations
• Workers at operations centers necessary to maintain other essential functions
• Workers who support necessary credentialing, vetting and licensing operations for transportation workers including holders of Commercial Drivers Licenses
• Workers who are critical to facilitating trade in support of the national, state and local emergency response supply chain
• Educators and staff supporting public and private emergency childcare programs, residential schools for students with disabilities, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities for purposes of facilitating distance learning, provision of school meals, or performing other essential student support functions, if operating under rules for social distancing.
In closing, the Governor issued a statement of gratitude for those doing their part to slow the spread and sent a message of hope. "Purpose is what drives us. Purpose is what fills our souls. Many feel lost, and I can see why. But here's the truth: we all have a role to play; we all have purpose as we battle this disease. Protecting one another from the spread of COVID-19 by limiting physical and social contact and staying at home is profoundly purposeful. Every single act of distance has purpose."
Watch Governor Baker's full press conference here: