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Massachusetts is prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people "effective immediately," Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday in a press conference at the State House with Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.
Baker said the new guidance marks a "significant change" to daily life as state officials work to limit the coronavirus outbreak.
"The gatherings in this order are subject, but are not limited to, community, civic, public and leisure gatherings, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals and any similar event or activity that brings together 250 or more persons in a single room, or single space, at the same time," Baker said.
The guidance does not apply to:
- Bus and train stations
- "Typical office environments"
- Medical facilities
- Grocery or retail stores
- Shopping malls
- Government buildings
- Polling locations
- Other spaces "where 250 [or] more persons may be in transit"
The state is also not recommending schools shut down systemwide, Baker said.
A blanket decision to close schools "does not appear to be the appropriate thing to do at this time," Baker said, citing recommendations he has received from the state Department of Public Health. Dozens of schools have made the decision at the district level to close for weeks.
There are currently 123 known positive coronavirus cases in the state as of early Friday evening. Massachusetts is testing 200 people for coronavirus each day, Sudders said. The number of daily tests is expected to increase to 400 by next week, Sudders said. But lab capacity also must increase to accommodate more tests for the virus.
Along with Massachusetts hospitals' ability to conduct testing, Baker said he hopes health diagnostics companies Quest and LabCorp will be able to "get into this space and up and operating" to bolster the state's testing capabilities. Quest and LabCorp received federal approval to conduct testing Thursday night, Sudders said.
"We continue to urge the FDA and CDC to help us expand our testing capacity so that we can test more residents across the commonwealth," Sudders said.
Baker signed a $15 million supplemental budget aimed at dealing with the outbreak Thursday night after state health officials announced the number of Massachusetts coronavirus cases increased by 13.
The Baker administration's update came just hours after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the Boston Marathon will be postponed until Sept. 14 — a first in the race's 124-year history — to further limit the virus' spread.
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