By SCOTT JACKSON
Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday said most of the early education and child care centers in Massachusetts will be required to close March 23 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This will provide priority access for families of emergency personnel, medical staff and others critical to fighting the COVID-19 outbreak,” Baker said.
Vulnerable children will also be prioritized, the governor added. The state will also, “work hard to make space for people who must go to work but aren’t necessarily emergency personnel,” Baker said.
State officials are working to ensure there is enough access to child care across Massachusetts, he said.
Child care providers will continue to receive child care subsidies to ensure the programs can reopen once the ban is lifted.
Baker had previously ordered all elementary and secondary schools to remain closed starting this week until April 6. Onsite consumption at restaurants has also been prohibited through that date, though restaurants can still offer takeout or delivery services. In addition, gatherings must be limited to no more than 25 people.
The number of Massachusetts cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, rose to 256 on Wednesday, according to the Department of Public Health. That is an increase of 38 over Tuesday. All of the cases are now considered confirmed, based on new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were 45 confirmed cases in Norfolk County as of Wednesday, an increase of two since the previous day.
Mayor Thomas Koch on Tuesday said there were nine cases of COVID-19 in Quincy. Health Commissioner Ruth Jones on Wednesday said one individual, an 85-year-old man, was hospitalized while, “all of the others are recovering at home and doing fairly well.”