Gov. Baker extends school closures through end of April

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is ordering schools and non-emergency child care programs in Massachusetts to remain closed through the end of April as the state works to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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Baker had earlier ordered schools to close through April 6, but said the extended closure until May 4 will let schools provide opportunities for remote learning for students while protecting their health.

Baker also issued an order giving supermarkets guidance on how to protect workers and employees, including instructions on how to maintain social distancing and provide at least one hour of shopping for adults over 60.

Baker also said reuseable bags are now prohibited and plastic bag bans will be lifted. Stores are not allowed to charge for paper and plastic bags.

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DEATHS

The number of people in Massachusetts who have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, reached 15 on Wednesday. The four deaths reported Wednesday consisted of three men and one woman in their 70s and 80s, three with pre-existing conditions.

Public health officials said the number of residents who have so far tested positive for the disease jumped to more than 1,800. Nearly 19,800 have been tested and 103 have been hospitalized since the start of the outbreak.

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LAWMAKER TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

State Rep. Mike Day has become the first member of the Massachusetts Legislature to test positive for COVID-19.

The Stoneham Democrat posted a message Wednesday on Facebook saying he began experiencing symptoms March 12 including a low-grade fever and aches and chills. He compared it to a mild case of the flu.

Day said he opted to self-quarantine but was unable to obtain a test until after being informed on March 17 that an individual at the Statehouse had tested positive.

Day said the quarantine ends Thursday, but he has decided to continue for a period of time with his family beyond that.

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REP. MOULTON SELF-QUARANTINE

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton said Wednesday he has decided to self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Moulton, a 41-year-old Democrat and former presidential hopeful from Massachusetts, said in a statement Wednesday that he began feeling unwell Thursday, with a low grade fever and a tightness in his chest he’d never felt before. Moulton said he also had a sore throat, though no serious cough, along with body aches and unusual fatigue.

His wife had similar symptoms, he said.

Well before experiencing the symptoms, Moulton said, he had instructed staff members in his offices in Salem and Washington to work from home, except for two essential workers.

As aide to Moulton said the last contact Moulton had with staff members, constituents and lawmakers was 14 days ago.

The House’s attending physician told him during a phone call that because the symptoms are minor and a test would not change his treatment, he and his wife don’t qualify for tests, he said.

Moulton said that he has been steadily improving and that unless his symptoms worsen, he can end his self-quarantine at his home in Salem Saturday.

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CASINOS

Massachusetts’ casinos will be closed at least until April 7, state gambling regulators voted Wednesday.

The state’s Gaming Commission had ordered Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MGM in Springfield and Plainridge Park in Plainville to initially shut down for two weeks, from March 15 through March 29.

The extension is in keeping with Baker’s executive order this week shuttering nonessential businesses through April 7, the commission said.

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JAMES TAYLOR HOSPITAL DONATION

James Taylor and his wife, Kim, have donated $1 million to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to support the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

The gift announced Tuesday will support the hospital's Emergency Response Fund, established in response to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

Taylor, 72, has deep ties to the hospital. His father, Dr. Isaac Taylor, completed his residency in internal medicine, served as chief resident and conducted research there. James Taylor was born there in 1948.

“Kim and I want to be part of this fight.,” James Taylor, who lives in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts, said in a statement.

Hospital President Dr. Peter Slavin called the gift a morale boost.

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NO BOSTON LOCKDOWN — YET

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday that he’s not planning to issue a shelter-in-place order for the city — but he’s also not ruling it out.

The city has hired the McChrystal Group, an advisory firm founded by former Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to help the city navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Walsh said the firm has been preparing Boston for potentially shutting down the city if needed.

Walsh also said he has put together a list of potential overflow sites for hospitals, medical personnel and the city’s homeless population.

“Unfortunately we’re going to have to build it,” Walsh said. “Hopefully we’ll never have to use it.”

Walsh also said Wednesday that he's extending the city's order to pause nonessential construction until further notice.

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IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL-VIRUS

The top federal immigration official in New England has coronavirus-like symptoms.

Todd Lyons, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Boston field office, which oversees New England, wasn’t able to appear in person for a hearing scheduled Thursday in Boston federal court because he's self quarantining, Judge Mark Wolf said.

Instead he and other ICE officials participated in the emergency hearing by telephone conference.

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ABOUT THE VIRUS

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.