Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker blasted federal lawmakers and the White House on Tuesday for their "appalling" behavior in Washington, D.C., which he said has delayed efforts to approve a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.
The Republican governor, speaking at a noontime coronavirus press conference, said governors, mayors and other elected officials have stepped up during these difficult times, while federal politicians have engaged in "partisan bickering" in Washington.
"I know it's possible, if they choose to, for D.C. to do the same," Baker said. "This kind of partisan behavior is simply not an option now."
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"Make a deal," he added. "I think its critical that these folks find a way to yes."
Top congressional and White House officials said they expect to reach a deal Tuesday on the measure to shore up businesses and send relief checks to ordinary Americans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said lawmakers are "very close" to reaching an agreement on the bill.
Baker also announced the launch of a new statewide coronavirus text message alert system on Tuesday. Residents who want to receive alerts can text "COVIDMA" to 888777 to sign up.
The governor said there are now about a dozen testing sites in the state, and over 9,000 people have now been tested, an increase of 3,000 since Sunday. He also again warned that the number of positive COVID-19 cases are likely to continue to rise as the state's testing capacity grows.
On Monday, Baker ordered all non-essential businesses to close to the public for two weeks starting Tuesday and issued a stay-at-home advisory in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
All non-essential businesses were required to close their physical workplaces and facilities to all workers and the public beginning at noon Tuesday until April 7.
The stay-at-home advisory, which outlines social distancing protocol, will be in effect until the same day, Baker said.
"We know that these measures that we outlined yesterday are going to be very difficult and inconvenient for many, but our goal right now is to slow the spread of the virus," the governor said Tuesday. "There's no question these are challenging and unprecedented times, but I know the people of the Commonwealth will meet this challenge as they always have -- head on."
Despite the stay-at-home advisory, Baker has said people can still go for a walk "around the block or at the park," but urged those at the park not to engage in activities that involve close personal contact, including basketball and football.
Essential businesses include supermarkets and the businesses that support them, pharmacies, gas stations, and manufacturers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Although medical marijuana facilities will be allowed to stay open, recreational pot shops are considered nonessential and must close, he said. Restaurants will be allowed to stay open for takeout and delivery only.
Health officials on Monday announced four additional deaths related to the novel coronavirus outbreak, bringing the state's total to nine; and 131 new COVID-19 cases that brought the total to 777 cases statewide.
For most people, health officials say the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, however, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Health officials say COVID-19 activity is increasing in Massachusetts. At this time, if people are only mildly symptomatic, health officials say they should speak to their healthcare provider about whether they need to be assessed in person. If not, they should stay at home while they are sick.
Asymptomatic family members should practice social distancing and immediately self-isolate if they develop symptoms, according to health officials.