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Gov. Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to spike.
State health officials reported 51 new cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 92. One of the cases has been confirmed by the CDC. Six people are hospitalized.
Baker said starting Wednesday, executive branch employees will be encouraged to work from home. Foreign and domestic work-related travel will be banned; personal foreign travel is discouraged. Large conferences and meetings should be held virtually or cancelled. He said all other regular business, including mandated public meetings, should continue.
He also urged the public to take extra care for older residents, people who are immunocompromised and others who may be at greater risk to the illness.
Baker said the state's current healthcare system is well-equipped to handle the current number of coronavirus patients. Massachusetts has received more test kits to help detect cases of the illness.
"The highly contagious nature of this disease means that 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," Baker said.
Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also asked secondary schools, colleges and universities to stop all out-of-state travel.
"We also ask other businesses and organizations to follow today's guidance on work-related travel, large events and working from home where it is appropriate for them," Polito said.
Baker said the state of emergency gives his administration more flexibility, from accessing federal funds, to canceling large events. A state of emergency was last called in 2018, after gas pipeline explosions in the Merrimack Valley.
While most cases are clustered in Suffolk, Middlesex and Norfolk counties, more cases are being reported elsewhere.
In Berkshire County, there are now seven cases of coronavirus, and signs of community spread, according to Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel.
"We're working rapidly to facilitate the need they have for supplies and equipment. we are facilitating the surveillance and testing of healthcare workers and patients. and we are in contact multiple times a day with staff there,"Bharel said.
Seventy of the 92 presumptive positive cases in the state are connected to a Biogen leadership conference held in Boston at the end of February.
"I don't know how we can say at a point in time where we have 92 cases, the Berkshire issue that just popped, and some of the issues that have come up more broadly around the country —I would have to say that the risk has increased," Baker said.
The MBTA is cleaning its fleet vehicles, which includes buses, trains, trolleys and ferries, "on a regular basis," and high-contact areas, like hand rails and fare gates, will be cleaned every four hours.
Massport workers are cleaning terminals, adding hand sanitizer stations, and increasing education efforts at Logan Airport.
The audio attached to this post is a Morning Edition segment from WBUR Reporter Steve Brown.
This segment aired on March 11, 2020.
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