Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday that Massachusetts schools will remain closed through the end of the school year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He had previously ordered schools closed until May 4.
“It’s the right thing do considering the facts on the ground at this point. At this point in time there is no authoritative guidance with respect to how to operate schools safely and how to get kids to and from school safely,” Baker said.
He also said his order closing all non-emergency childcare programs will be extended until June 29.
Another 103 people have died after contracting the new coronavirus in Massachusetts, health officials said Monday, bringing the death toll to 1,809. The total number of positive cases has reached 39,643, with 1,566 new cases announced by the state Department of Public Health.
The governor’s current stay-at-home advisory, non-essential business closure and school shutdown runs through May 4. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Monday that it’s unlikely city schools will reopen again this year.
In an interview with NBC10 Boston on Monday, Baker urged the Trump administration to lead efforts to expand the nation’s capacity to test for the new coronavirus, saying the move was “hugely important” to reopening the economy.
“I think the country needs to dramatically expand its testing capability and this is an issue where the federal government, I feel, has to lead,” he said.
Baker said Massachusetts, one of the country’s hot spots for the coronavirus, is among the top five states in the nation when it comes to the number of tests administered on a per capita basis.
President Donald Trump last week laid out a phased approach to reopening the economy that involves gradual loosening of restrictions after a state has seen a prolonged decline in the number of cases. However, Trump said governors would ultimately choose when and how to lift those restrictions.
Baker said Massachusetts would need to dramatically ramp up its testing as part of a strategy to reopen the economy.
“The whole goal here is to create a set of rules around how we can so-called ‘reopen’ and then make sure people abide by the rules, and then test like crazy and contact-trace people who have tested positive,” he said.
Baker added that the federal government could also help by providing additional funding for work on treatments to fight the virus.
“These are things the federal government has to drive,” he said. “And I’m glad to see in the next round of funding… there’s a significant amount of money there for the FDA and CDC do the work that needs to be done to both expand testing capability and treatment,” he said.
Baker said last week he is looking for 14 days of steady declines in positive coronavirus tests before the state can open up again.
He has stressed that governors throughout the Northeast will need to coordinate on reopening and that the state’s ambitious contact-tracing system will need to be working well, so that any flare-ups can be quickly tracked down and contained.
“I think the plan people are working on is one that can work on a go-forward basis but we’re going to have to be cautious and careful,” Baker said. “We don’t want to give the virus a chance to bloom again.”