Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday ordered all non-essential businesses to close to the public for two weeks starting Tuesday and issued a stay-at-home advisory amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
All non-essential businesses will be required to close their physical workplaces and facilities to all workers and the public beginning 12 p.m Tuesday until April 7.
The stay-at-home advisory, which outlines social distancing protocol, will be in effect until the same day, Baker said.
Baker said essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and all other businesses that provide essential services would remain open.
"Everyone is urged to stay home and limit all unnecessary activities," Baker said. "We're asking everyone to use their common sense, think about the impact this virus is having on the sick and elderly, and to limit their interactions with other people."
The governor said people can still go for a walk "around the block or at the park," but urged those at the park not to engage in activities that involve close personal contact, including basketball and football.
Essential businesses include supermarkets and the businesses that support them, pharmacies, gas stations, and manufacturers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Although medical marijuana facilities will be allowed to stay open, recreational pot shops are considered nonessential and must close, he said. Restaurants will be allowed to stay open for takeout and delivery only.
Baker acknowledged the moves could have an "incredible impact" on local businesses, but stressed that now is the time to act.
"By taking these actions now, we will significantly improve our position in the fight to slow the spread of this virus," he said in a news conference.
"Acting now to prevent more person-to-person interaction in spreading the virus will buy us more time for our health care system to better prepare for a challenge unlike any they've ever seen."
Health officials on Monday announced four additional deaths related to the novel coronavirus outbreak, bringing the state's total to nine; and 131 new COVID-19 cases that brought the total to 777 cases statewide.
More on the Coronavirus Outbreak
Baker encouraged people to check with people over 70 or those with underlying health conditions to see if they need help picking up groceries or medicine.
For most people, health officials say the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, however, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The majority of the confirmed cases in the Bay State continue to be in Middlesex County with 232 people affected, according to the latest numbers by the health department. Suffolk County now has 154 cases while Norfolk County has 82. There are 73 cases in Essex County.
The number of patients hospitalized continues to grow, as well, with health officials saying Monday that at least 79 people have required hospitalization.
Baker said Sunday that he expects to see the number of cases go up as testing continues to expand. More than 6,000 Bay State residents had been tested as of Sunday afternoon for the virus by the State Public Health Laboratory and commercial labs, officials said.
Health officials say COVID-19 activity is increasing in Massachusetts. At this time, if people are only mildly symptomatic, health officials say they should speak to their healthcare provider about whether they need to be assessed in person. If not, they should stay at home while they are sick.
Asymptomatic family members should practice social distancing and immediately self-isolate if they develop symptoms, according to health officials.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.