There are five confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the city of Gloucester and one in Essex.

Local officials expect these numbers, announced Sunday evening, to increase as testing becomes more widely available.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken issued an emergency order for all personal care businesses in Gloucester to close at noon Sunday, March 22. Personal care businesses include, but are not limited to hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, day spas, massage and body work establishments, tattoo piercing and body art establishments, aesthetics establishments, tanning salons, and gyms and fitness centers.

The move came after the city's first three cases were reported Saturday.

Manchester selectmen followed suit Sunday evening, ordering all personal care businesses in town to close immediately until further notice. They also closed public beaches, all public parks, all athletic fields, all tennis courts and corresponding parking lots.

“This is all about public safety in this critical period when we are trying to prevent the rapid spread of COVID 19. As much as we hate to have to do this, the science tells us not allowing people to congregate is one of our best strategies,” said Eli Boling, selectmen chairman.

In Essex, town officials closed all ballfields and all playgrounds to all persons effective immediately.

Schools on Cape Ann are closed through April 7, and all the towns have closed their municipal buildings to the public, doing business online and by phone. 

Gloucester’s Health Department, once notified of three confirmed cases on Saturday, began its investigation which included tracing back these individuals’ recent contracts. began its investigation which included tracing back these individuals’ recent contracts. Two more cases were reported Sunday,

“We’ve seen a spike in cases in Massachusetts and a cross the nation. The Gloucester Board of Health and the City of Gloucester have been preparing for the last several weeks for the arrival of COVID-19 in our community,” the city’s Public Health Director Karin Carroll said. “The city’s been at the forefront on planning for this outbreak and has taken appropriate steps to adapt to the situation.”

The three individuals reported Saturday are recovering at home and following the recommended isolation protocols, according to city health officials.

Essex officials said the positive individual in its town is following recommended isolation protocols, others who had close contact would be notified, and that no more information would be released about its case.

In the interest of public health and safety and to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 in Gloucester, Romeo Theken during the past week has also:

Closed all Gloucester Public Schools before the state mandate.

Closed all municipals buildings to the public.

Declared a state of emergency in the City of Gloucester to implement broad emergency measures to ensure public health and safety.

Ordered the closure of all city playgrounds.

“We are relying on you, our residents, to help us slow the spread of the virus in our community. This is a very fluid situation with many fast moving developments,” Romeo Theken said. “Everyone in Gloucester needs to follow all the local and state guidelines and recommendations. Please check in on your family, neighbors and friends — especially seniors. We all have a responsibility to do our part to keep each other and our city safe.”

The city’s COVID-19 Response Team continues to work and meet regularly to discuss the latest guidance and determine the actions needed to keep the city prepared as the situation continues to evolve, she said.

Romeo Theken is being briefed daily to coordinate efforts across city departments. The mayor and city officials are also joining daily briefings with state and federal officials to coordinate containment strategies regionally while at the same time prioritizing public communication and ensuring critical continuity of city operations.

“Our city has always pulled together during difficult and trying times,” Romeo Theken said. “The thoughts of the entire community are with the affected individuals and their families. Together we will all get through this.”

For more information about COVID-19, call 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone, visit the city’s website www.gloucester-ma.gov, the state’s website www.mass.gov, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

For continuing coverage of the ongoing COVID-19 threat on Cape Ann, follow and use the #CapeAnnCOVID hashtag on social media.

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