BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Tuesday after new coronavirus cases in Massachusetts more than doubled to 92. During a state of emergency, state laws give the governor a wide range of powers for responding to the emergency.

Where do the governor's state of emergency powers come from?

dating back to 1950 grants the governor the power to declare a state of emergency. The governor can declare a state of emergency in response a natural or man-made disaster. allows the governor to declare a "public health emergency," granting emergency authority to the public health commissioner. Baker only cited the 1950 law in his declaration.


Read the latest on the authority: "Under a state of Emergency, the Governor is authorized to issue executive orders to meet the needs of a threat, emergency, or disaster. These Orders are to be treated as law and may override existing law for the course of the disaster.

"The Governor is authorized to exercise any and all authority over persons and property necessary to protect the public. Depending on the disaster, this may include taking and using property for the protection of the Commonwealth. Ordering evacuations, implementing curfews, or enacting other restrictions can be used to protect public health and welfare if warranted."

The specific outlined powers are broad. The governor can limit travel, as often happens when the power is used to respond to storms. He can ban assemblies, streamline state purchasing and even regulate the sale of food and other consumer goods. He can regulate the insurance industry and act to protect bank deposits.

During a state of emergency, the state can also take possession of land, buildings, equipment, vehicles, fuel and livestock. The governor can also order state offices and even businesses to close.

When have states of emergency been declared in the past?

While the law governing them dates to Cold War fears, states of emergency have mostly been used for storms and other disasters. The most recent state of emergency in Massachusetts was declared by Baker in September 2018 following the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Other emergencies over the last decade have been in response to storms, such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 or two winter storms in 2015.

What does the state of emergency mean for me?

Nothing, yet. Baker did not issue any orders to the public as part of the declaration. But he did issue guidance.

"I urge employers and other large organizations to follow our example and limit or eliminate non-essential travel, limit or eliminate large events where possible, and explore telework where appropriate for your organization," he said. "We are also urging older adults and those with health issues to avoid large crowds and large events."

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency was activated to bring together government agencies including health, human services and public safety, Baker said. Guidance for long-term care facilities is expected Wednesday.

The state also made changes to school policy for this year. No school will be required to remain in session past the end of June, regardless of how many days they have been in session, and data past March 2 will be disregarded for chronic absenteeism purposes.

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