Massachusetts schools closed through April; cases top 1,800, 4 more deaths

Coronavirus

BOSTON (WPRI) — All schools and non-emergency child care programs in Massachusetts will remain closed through the month of April as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to climb.

The Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Wednesday afternoon that the state now has 1,838 COVID-19 cases — up from 1,159 on Tuesday — and four more people had died, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to 15 in less than a week.

The DPH said the most recent deaths were a man and a woman in their 70s from Worcester County, a man in his 80s in Barnstable County, and a man in his 80s from Norfolk County. All four were hospitalized and had preexisting medical conditions.

Bristol County currently has 67 cases, according to the DPH.

Nearly 20,000 people have been tested for the virus statewide.

Less than an hour before the DPH released its new numbers, Gov. Charlie Baker announced he’d signed an executive order extending the closure of public and private school buildings until at least Monday, May 4.

“This way, schools can prepare for their students’ return in May,” Baker 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,” he added.

Read Baker’s order: K-12 schools » | Early education »

The order does not apply to residential special education schools, Baker noted.

The governor had initially ordered schools to close for three weeks beginning on March 17.

Baker also announced his administration is partnering with WGBH to launch online resources for children across Massachusetts, and educational content will be televised from noon to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

He encouraged parents and teachers to consider ways to continue students’ learning offline, such as doing hands-on projects and exploring nature, as long as social distancing guidelines are being followed.

“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.

Emergency child care programs will continue to serve essential workers including medical personnel, first responders and grocery store employees. As of Tuesday, the state had approved more than 400 programs which have the capacity to serve more than 8,000 kids, according to Baker.

On Tuesday, the governor announced the state has set up a text-based notification system to keep residents informed. Text COVIDMA to 888-777 to subscribe.

Later in the day, he said public parks would remain open but ordered all athletic fields, courts and other recreational facilities to close until at least April 7.

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