Baker denies rumors of statewide shelter-in-place order over coronavirus worries

Coronavirus Local Impact
Charlie Baker_316302

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker addresses reporters after signing a bill at the Statehouse in Boston, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Gov. Baker, who is pushing broader legislation to battle the deadly opioid abuse scourge, signed into law criminal penalties for trafficking in fentanyl, a powerful drug that law enforcement officials say is often added to heroin. […]

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Gov. Charlie Baker shot down rumors Sunday morning that he is planning to order Massachusetts residents to shelter in place for two weeks, saying he had heard those rumors himself as the pandemic spread of coronavirus continues in Massachusetts and around the world.

“We have no plans to do that,” Baker told WCVB’s Janet Wu during a live interview Sunday morning. When Wu asked if the rumor was “wild speculation,” the governor said, “yes.”

Meanwhile, Cambridge and Somerville are at least having conversations about taking more aggressive steps to force social distancing at the local level, according to a state rep who serves both cities.

Baker did say, however, that his administration will be asking the Legislature to give him more authority to address the pandemic, including a plan to file legislation Monday related to unemployment insurance for workers and businesses affected by the outbreak.

The governor said he thinks Boston Mayor Martin Walsh “did the right thing” by closing bars in South Boston early Saturday night and for all of Sunday after people crowded into establishments and congregated in long lines outside despite public health experts urging people to distance themselves from others. Baker said he hopes Walsh shuts bars down on Tuesday, too, which is St. Patrick’s Day.

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts stands at 138 on Sunday morning. Baker said Sunday to expect that number to grow in coming days as the state ramps up its testing capacity.

“I think you’re going to see tons more tested and with tons more testing, yeah, you’ll probably see a significant increase in the number of people” who test positive, he said on “On The Record.”

Walsh is going to address the public and press outside City Hall at 3 p.m. Sunday, and the state Department of Public Health is due to release the latest tally of positive cases by 4 p.m.

The Boston City Council late Friday also announced it is closing its City Hall offices to the public until further notice and there’s increasing pressure on Gov. Charlie Baker and education officials to shut down all public schools.

On Friday, Gov. Baker imposed a ban on many gatherings of 250 people or more, but said his administration is not recommending that local school systems cancel classes and close schools unless there is a threat of exposure.

Baker said Friday that banning most concerts, social events and public gatherings will help the state slow the spread of the coronavirus in order to give the health care system a fighting chance at meeting demand. He said the ban does not apply to most workplaces, airports, bus stations, grocery stores, shopping malls and restaurants.

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