Massachusetts' early education centers and family child care providers will close starting Monday amid the coronavirus outbreak, but some exempt centers will open to care for the children of critical workers, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday at a briefing.
Some people, including volunteers and teachers, have already said they would provide care, which will go toward children in the priority access group, which includes families of medical workers and emergency personnel, Baker said.
Vulnerable children would also be allowed, and Baker said "we'll work hard to make space for people who must go to work but aren't necessarily emergency personnel," Baker said. And the state will continue paying subsidies to child care providers that close, so they can reopen when it is safe.
Baker also announced that regulations on certain kinds of health care providers would be opened up, given the strain on the system. He moved back tax due dates for some small businesses and said he signed legislation waiving a one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance claims to be paid out.
Additionally, Baker's administration announced Wednesday that it was closing playgrounds and fitness areas at state parks through the end of the month, as well as agency-managed bathrooms through at least March 25. State parks themselves remain open, though the Department of Conservation and Recreation urges visitors to practice social distancing.
Over 2,000 Massachusetts residents have been quarantined due to coronavirus, according to the latest numbers released by state health officials on Wednesday.
The new figures show that 2,054 residents have been subjected to quarantine, with 1,168 still under quarantine and 886 who are no longer in quarantine. That's nearly double the total of 1,083 from a week ago.
As the number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts steadily climb, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh -- who reported 45 cases in Boston on Wednesday afternoon -- laid out his thought process for what it would take to issue a shelter-in-place order.
Baker said Tuesday that he had no plans to order residents to shelter in place. However, more than a dozen state and local Democrats are urging the Republican to reconsider in an open letter.
In the letter, released Tuesday afternoon, the 17 Democrats called for Baker to issue for a shelter in place by the end of day Tuesday, following other cities like San Francisco.
"Physicians tell us COVID-19 is some 10 times more contagious than the flu, and that 1 out of every 5 people who are infected will contract a serious pneumonia that will require hospitalization," they said.
"It is essential that the spread of the virus be suppressed to protect the ability of healthcare providers to handle the influx of new patients and safeguard public health and safety. Epidemiologists have suggested that Massachusetts could see as many as 10,000 cases by the end of this month."
As of Tuesday, the total number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts rose to 218, according to state health officials.
Baker said Tuesday that while there were "tough days ahead," there were no plans to implement a shelter in place.
"Without question we are likely to have some very tough days ahead of us, as we are still at the beginning of the battle against this virus," Baker said. "Faith and confidence. We'll get through this by pulling together, caring for one another."
Baker plans to provide an update on the coronavirus pandemic at 3 p.m. at the State House with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Sec. of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and DPH Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel.
In a Tuesday evening televised address, Walsh called on the public to social distance in order to flatten the curve of the coronavirus.
"We simply need everyone's help, and that's how we'll get through this," Walsh said. "This is not a time for house parties, play dates or visiting friends. We need everyone to limit their contact with each other right now."