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Swampscott orders residents to remain home amid pandemic

Governor Charlie Baker’s hometown tightens restrictions further than he has done statewide

Gabrille Tilley walked on Kings Beach in Swampscott in 2019.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker’s hometown of Swampscott has ordered residents to stay home except for “essential” activities and services and has banned non-essential gatherings outside the home, regardless of size.

The North Shore town’s Select Board and Board of Health voted unanimously in an online public meeting Wednesday night to make mandatory what Baker had advised on Monday, but also to go further by prohibiting gatherings outside of residences, town officials said.

The policy went into effect Thursday at noon.

The emergency order Baker issued Monday outlawed only meetings of 10 or more people while Massachusetts remains in a state of emergency. A spokeswoman for Baker did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.


The order requires residents to remain inside unless they are running necessary errands, caring for a loved one, or are seeking exercise. Residents working in essential businesses defined in Baker’s order, such as health care facilities and grocery stores, are exempt.

Residents are also required to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing and stay at least 6 feet apart when outdoors, according the order.

“You cannot both congregate and socially distance yourself, so Swampscott decided to prohibit congregating instead of following the state’s directive of no more than 10 people,” Peter Spellios, chairman of the town’s Select Board, said during the meeting, according to a transcript provided to the Globe.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said at the Wednesday meeting that the town, which has four known cases of COVID-19 and expects more, said it is essential for local officials to act to help stem the spread of the virus.

“I appreciate the governor has taken steps to really help us clamp down on transmission, but we here on the local level have a responsibility to do everything that we believe is necessary,” Fitzgerald said, according the transcript. “I believe that giving people a clear direction and helping them understand that they should stay at home, that they should keep their families at home, and minimize the risk of transmission, is paramount to our collective welfare.”


Marianne Hartmann, chair of the town’s Board of Health and a registered nurse, said public health considerations must guide all decisions.

“I read recently that, ‘The virus doesn’t move, people move it. We stop moving, the virus stops moving. The virus dies. It is that simple,’ ” Hartmann said. “That is the clear public health message we are sending with this local order.”

Swampscott is one of only a few Massachusetts communities to direct residents to stay at home.

On Sunday, Nantucket and Provincetown announced separately that they would require residents to remain at home. The decisions were made after Nantucket learned of its first resident to test positive for the virus and Provincetown learned that two residents were positive.

On Wednesday, Provincetown rescinded its order and said residents should follow Baker’s advisory.

The decision was made to avoid giving contradictory guidance, according to Steven Katsurinis, chairman of the Provincetown Board of Health.

“In a time of upheaval, the last thing people want is a set of confusing instructions," Katsurinis said in a phone interview Thursday night.

He added that the town was prepared to reinstate its emergency order if Baker does not maintain his stay-home advisory.


“I’m concerned that pressure from the president on Republican governors to cut this short might play a role here,” Katsurinis said.

In Revere, some have called for a stay-home order after city officials said Thursday that 33 residents had tested positive for COVID-19, including seven people who lived at the Jack Satter House on Revere Beach Boulevard. Five of the residents at the senior living facility have been hospitalized and one has died, though the cause of that death has not been confirmed.

Revere residents won’t be ordered to stay home, at least for now.

In a brief e-mail to the Globe on Thursday night, Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo wrote, “At this point there are no plans for a shelter in place order.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him @jeremycfox.