All Massachusetts schools and non-emergency child care programs will remain closed through April, it was announced Wednesday, as the state reported a surge in cases of the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
The announcement comes as an extension of the original closure announcements issued on March 15 and March 18 by Gov. Charlie Baker, who said schools would be closed for three weeks until April 6. All public and private schools and non-emergency child care programs will now remain closed until at least early May.
At today’s COVID-19 update, @MassLtGov and I joined @MASchoolsK12 Commissioner Riley to announce the extension of school closures for K-12 schools and non-emergency early education programs until May 4. #COVID19MA
— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) March 26, 2020
The state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) on Wednesday said COVID-19 cases rose by 679 in 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,838 cases, with 15 deaths. Four additional deaths were confirmed in the state, all of whom were elderly and had preexisting conditions, the DPH said.
Just under 20,000 Massachusetts residents have been tested for the CCP virus so far.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
Baker announced that he had signed an executive order that would see the closure of public and private school buildings until May 4 at the earliest.
“This way, schools can prepare for their students’ return in May,” he said. “This extended closure will allow more time for teachers to ensure that all students have access to resources and instruction that is customized to their particular needs. This includes special needs and English language learners.”
“More importantly, this time period provides a runway to ensure that they can complete their coursework by the end of the school year in June,” Baker added.
The order does not apply to residential special education schools, according to a news release. Baker said the state will send out guidance to school districts on Thursday.
Baker also announced a partnership between his administration and WGBH, which would see the launch of online educational research for children state-wide.
“There is more work to do, obviously, and we will continue to make progress toward helping all schools have the tools and the materials that they need,” Baker said.
The news comes just days after Baker announced the closure of all non-essential businesses.
The order, which went into effect on Tuesday at noon, requires non-essential businesses to close their workplaces and facilities to all workers and customers through April 7.
Businesses are encouraged to continue operations remotely. Essential businesses (pdf) include those relating to testing for the COVID-19 disease, providing medical care for patients, producing or distributing food, and law enforcement.
Penalties for non-compliance will start at fines and escalate from there, Baker said at a press conference.
He made the decision to sign the order after speaking with health experts, local and federal officials, and other governors.
Baker opted against a “stay at home” order that some other governors have made, such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Such orders mandate people not leave their homes except for trips for essentials, such as getting medicine groceries, or trips to work at essential businesses.
He instead issued an advisory asking people to stay home unless they needed to go out.
People over the age of 70 and those with underlying health issues were strongly advised to stay home and limit interactions with others.
The new order also limits gatherings to 10 people, a drop from an earlier 25-person limit. People are free to gather in larger groups in outdoor spaces like parks but should avoid activities that include close contact, like basketball games.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.