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With Sharp Rise In Coronavirus Cases In Massachusetts, Baker Declares Emergency

Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) speaks at a State House news conference where he issued an emergency declaration because of the spreading coronavirus.
Governor's press office via Twitter

   Massachusetts has joined the list of states to declare emergencies over the coronavirus.

   Gov. Charlie Baker said the emergency declaration gives him the authority to more quickly mobilize resources to attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease in Massachusetts where the number of cases of Covid-19 more than doubled to 92.

    "I would have to say the risk has increased," said Baker.

    The majority of the cases in Massachusetts involve people who attended a conference held last month in Boston by a biotech company.  But, the first cases with no known source – so-called community spread – broke out in Berkshire County.

   "We have a lot of flexability on the public health side within our existing state laws, but when you start talking about stuff like ( canceling large events) we need an emergency declaration," said Baker.

    Baker ordered work restrictions on 42,000 state employees, banning out-of-state travel and in-person conferences and seminars.  He said executive branch employees should work remotely, if possible, and definitely stay home if they are sick.   He encouraged private employers to take similar steps.

    The emergency directive gives Baker the authority to cancel large public gatherings.  But, for now his advice is for people who are over 60 or with existing health conditions to stay away from crowds.

  "And if they have family members who are not in those categories, but spend a lot of time with them, they should do the same," said Baker. 

  " I have a 91-year old dad and he and I are probably going to talk a lot on the phone and I won't spend as much time phsically with him as I usually do."

   Massachusetts legislative leaders have announced a plan to create a $15 million fund to respond to the rapid rise in coronavirus cases.

  " I am sure we'll be able to find appropriate uses for it and we really appreciate the legislatures willingness to do that," said Baker.

    Baker said it is impossible to know now what the overall economic impacts will be.

   "Frankly, there are many businesses for which this is going to be a boon," said Baker.  "This will cut both ways as it plays out over time."

   The tourism and hospitality industry in the state is taking a hard hit as conventions are canceled, business travel is curtailed, and more and more colleges send students home for the rest of the semester.

    In Holyoke, where Mayor Alex Morse Tuesday announced the cancellation of the St Patrick’s Parade and road race scheduled for the weekend of March 21st, businesses are looking at a $20 million hit.

   "We'll have conversations about potential options and economic stimulus for those negatively impacted," Morse said.  " But our priority today is public health and we'll have the conversation about economics moving forward."

    Boston Mayor Marty Walsh strongly defended the cancellation of the St. Patrick’s Parade after bar and restaurant owners along the parade route complained.

   " You can't complain about this," said Walsh. " It is about public safety. It is about protecting their patrons."

    As of now, the Boston Marathon scheduled for April 20th is still on.    Walsh said the Marathon brings in $211 million to the city’s economy.

      The Boston Marathon, in its 123-year history, has never been canceled.


The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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