State Watch

Massachusetts governor declares emergency as virus cases nearly double

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) late Tuesday declared a state of emergency to assist health officials’ response to the novel coronavirus as the tally of confirmed cases in the United States surpassed 1,000. 

Baker made the proclamation on the same day that confirmed cases in Massachusetts nearly doubled, from 51 to 92. The vast majority of the cases in the state, 70, are tied to a meeting organized by the biotech company Biogen at a Boston hotel in February. 

“Today, I have declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts to further support our response to Coronavirus,” Baker said in a statement. “We will continue planning and preparing to mitigate the spread of this disease, and have issued new guidance for Executive Branch employees in the Commonwealth.”

“I urge employers and other large organizations to follow our example and limit or eliminate non-essential travel, limit or eliminate large events where possible, and explore telework where appropriate for your organization,” he added. “We are also urging older adults and those with health issues to avoid large crowds and large events.”

The novel coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread to dozens of countries and infected more than 119,000 people. As of Wednesday morning, 1,039 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the U.S. 

The outbreak in the U.S. has caused schools and businesses to close and officials in several states and cities to warn against large gatherings. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced earlier this week that he would deploy the National Guard to create a containment zone around a city hit particularly hard by the virus. 

Biogen announced last week that three people who attended a company meeting last month tested positive for the disease, CNN reported. The company said that it directed all employees who attended the meeting to work from home for the next two weeks. 

Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said that only four of the 92 confirmed cases of are travel-related, indicating that the disease is spreading within communities. 

Baker’s emergency declaration activates the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and gives him greater authority to take actions such as shutting down big events. The guidance for state executive branch officials will be reevaluated in 30 days, the governor’s office said. 

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