Massachusetts to shut schools, ban dining out, gatherings of 25-plus to fight virus

A shopper walks past empty shelves where bread is normally displayed in a supermarket in Boston on Sunday. Gov. Charlie Baker announced schools across the state will close until April 7.

BOSTON — Schools in Massachusetts will close for at least three weeks, and all gatherings of more than 25 people will be banned in the latest attempt to arrest the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Sunday.

The governor also ordered all dine-in restaurants and bars to close for three weeks. Take-away and delivery services won't be affected by the rules, nor will grocery stores or pharmacies.

"I realize these measures are unprecedented," Baker, a Republican, said at a news conference announcing the directives. "But we're asking our residents to take a deep breath and understand the rationale behind this guidance."

Classes were already suspended in many parts of the state, including Boston. Some districts are holding classes on Monday to give students a chance to retrieve belongings and pick up materials for home instruction.

The restrictions on gatherings will apply to any event that brings 25 or more people together in the same space and will apply to churches, gyms, theaters and workplaces. The order goes into effect Tuesday and will run through April 5.

Total cases

On Sunday, the state reported it has 164 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. That was an increase of 26 over the day before.

Of the cases, 108 were associated with a meeting of executives of the firm Biogen at a Boston hotel last month.

The Vermont Department of Public Health announced three new cases in that state, which included two Massachusetts residents: a male resident of Berkshire County, who is in his 70s; and a male in his 50s from Suffolk County. The Berkshire County resident is receiving treatment at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, while the Suffolk County resident is self-isolating at a home in Vermont, the health department said.

Baker debunks quarantine rumors

Baker, a Republican, said he's heard false rumors that the state will announce a broad quarantine for all residents Monday. He said it's one example of the misinformation about coronavirus circulating online.

"We have no plans to do that," he said of the rumored quarantine during an interview on WCVB-TV Sunday.

Baker urged residents to check trusted sources — government or legitimate news organizations — for the latest information on the virus.

Health worker infected

A health care worker at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital has tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement, the hospital said that patients and staff who may have had contact with the infected worker are being contacted. Brigham and Women's did not specify where the employee worked.

"The Brigham Health community has been preparing for this eventuality and has taken every precaution to protect our patients, their loved ones and our staff during this unprecedented pandemic," a hospital spokesperson wrote in the statement emailed to reporters.

Death on flight to Boston

Officials say a man who died while on a flight from Dubai to Boston will be tested for the coronavirus.

The 59-year-old Worcester resident had traveled to India this month and was returning Friday following a layover in Dubai. During the flight, authorities in Boston were notified of a passenger in cardiac arrest. The man was pronounced dead soon after landing.

The man had gastrointestinal illness in the days before his death, according to Massachusetts State Police.

While the man's symptoms weren't consistent with consistent with coronavirus, authorities say he will be tested because of his recent travel.

According to the State Police, 322 passengers and 18 crew members were aboard the flight, Emirates EK237.