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Massachusetts To Close Schools For Three Weeks, Restaurants Restricted To Take-Out Only

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker stands at a podium in front of a marble building with a row of people standing on either side of him
Josh Landes

Governor Charlie Baker has ordered new aggressive measures to fight the pandemic in Massachusetts.

In a Sunday evening announcement, Baker directed all public and private K-12 schools in the state to close for three weeks until April 6th.

Bars and restaurants are to close for all on-premise consumption starting Tuesday through April 6th.

Baker ordered a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people – this includes fitness centers, private clubs, and theaters.  It does not apply to grocery stores and pharmacies.

"We need to treat this and recognize that this is not a sprint, this is going to be a marathon," Baker said at State House news conference Sunday.

The new orders were announced as health officials said there is now evidence of community spread of the virus in seven counties, including Berkshire and Hampden.

The Republican governor had previously resisted calls (from the Massachusetts Teachers Association among others) to order all schools in the state to close.  Many individual school districts had previously announced plans to close for up to two weeks inluding the public schools in Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee and in all of the Berkshires.

Last week, Baker ordered a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people.

The more restrictive steps come amid indiciations that people are not taking seriously official advice to keep a distance from one another.

There were  long lines of people waiting to get into bars in Boston over the weekend, until the city stepped in and ordered bars to close at 11 p.m.

The Baker administation spent much time Sunday knocking down rumors that the governor was poised to order a shelter-in-place for the entire state. Baker criticized the speculation and said people should get their information from reliable sources.

Baker said the rumor of a quarantine was the likely cause of panic shopping at supermarkets that started Friday and resulted in many store shelves being emptied of meats, produce, canned goods, and dry pasta.

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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