Communities across Massachusetts are preparing for a statewide shutdown of public schools set to begin Tuesday.
Many schools were already closed Monday as the state, which has so far reported 164 cases of COVID-19, deals with the outbreak of the disease. Gov. Charlie Baker Sunday announced all public schools would be closed beginning Tuesday through April 7.
Baker said school staff should be planning now on how they can provide alternative access to learning opportunities. Schools statewide will be closed until April 7.
In Boston, the Eliot School was closed over a presumptive positive case of the coronavirus in a non-student member of the school community. The McKinley School was also closed due to possible exposure in their community.
The city prepared a map of sites where Boston Public Schools students can pick up free breakfast and lunch. Mayor Marty Walsh announced the move Sunday as he declared a public health emergency in Boston.
Baker urged parents and caretakers to use the next three weeks to truly practice social distancing, meaning maintaining a safe separation of at least six feet from others.
"Our public health officials made clear COVID-19 will feel like the flu for vast majority of people who get it, but it’s highly contagious," he said in a news conference Sunday. "Breaking up large gatherings and encouraging social distancing, we can help prevent spread but we can't transfer a group full of kids from the classroom to neighbors' play room for days on end."
"This means no free-for-all playdates and more time at home with only immediate family for the next three weeks," Baker said.
Although he is not ordering the closure of child care programs, Baker said, he is strongly urging child care providers to strictly observe guidelines that are being issued by the Department of Early Education and Care and the Department of Public Health.
Four of the 26 new cases announced Sunday are related to the employee meeting held at a Boston hotel by the Cambridge biotech firm Biogen last month. Health officials say 108 of the 164 cases are now tied to the Feb. 24-27 meeting held at the Marriott Long Wharf hotel, which has since closed "in the interest of public health."