Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Tuesday as the number of coronavirus cases in the state spiked to 92, more than double the 41 cases announced just 24 hours earlier.
"Today, I'm declaring a state of emergency in Massachusetts. This declaration will give our administration more flexibility to respond to this evolving outbreak," he said.
The governor said the state of emergency will give him greater power to take actions like shutting down events with large gatherings of people or gaining access to buildings or stockpiling protective gear if needed without getting bogged down in existing paperwork requirements. He is also restricting travel by executive branch employees.
Baker, who last week had said the risk of contracting the virus is low, on Tuesday said that given the new numbers of those who have tested positive, the risk of infection has increased.
He also urged older individuals to avoid large crowds. State health officials are also urging nursing homes to bar those who have traveled overseas or who are showing symptoms of disease.
The governor urged all employers of large organizations to follow suit where appropriate.
"The purpose of moving forward with these measures now is to act before the numbers increase to a point where the virus spread is severely impacting the Commonwealth," Baker said. "The highly contagious nature of this disease means if everyone plays their part in slowing the spread the number of people who become infected and require medical attention doesn't spike all at once, which would overwhelm many of our systems."
He said there is "no question" the steps being taken to mitigate the spread of the virus will be disruptive.
"We expect this disruption to continue for the foreseeable future and understand it will cause an inconvenience for many," Baker added, "but our goal needs to be to significantly increase efforts to mitigate the spread of this disease now."
Nearly half of the state's cases -- 41 -- are in Middlesex County. Norfolk County has 22 cases, Suffolk County 20 and Berkshire County 7. Essex and Worcester counties have one case apiece. Forty of the patients are female, and 52 are male.
Seventy of the cases are associated with a conference held by the biotech company Biogen from Feb. 24 to 27 at the Marriott Long Wharf in Boston.
Six patients are currently hospitalized, 62 are not, and 24 remain under investigation.
Officials say the risk level of contracting the virus remains low.
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