After ordering all childhood early education programs across Massachusetts to close amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Saturday that more than 300 emergency child care programs will be available in cities and towns across the state for people who still have to go to work.

“We know that childcare is an especially critical piece of emergency service that allows our frontline workers to continue their battle against COVID-19 and to continue their work,” Baker told reporters at a news conference Saturday at the State House. “And there are times when our families are on the frontlines and don't have another option for their children.”

The exempt emergency care programs are the only programs that are allowed to operate until at least April 6, according to Baker’s earlier emergency order.

Baker says child care is reserved for those who must report to work, including emergency responders, medical professionals, and other critical service workers like grocery store employees. “As of Friday, we had over 300 sites that were ready to start operation,” Baker said. “On Monday, we expect more to come online eventually, but this needs to be implemented safely and the sites should only really be used as a last resort.”

More information on the programs will be updated on Sunday at

Baker also said the state has made “significant progress” in the pace of testing over the past week, nearly doubling the number of tests completed daily across the state, from 520 on Wednesday to 962 per day as of Friday.

Baker said the state’s testing capacity is expanding dramatically. "I can tell you, based on my own personal discussions with the commercial lab community, their capacity to test is going to continue to grow in significant ways over the course of the next several weeks,” Baker said. “I want to remind folks that as the testing numbers go up… we certainly expect that we'll see an increase in the number of positive test cases as well.”

The governor said he met with the Army Corps of Engineers to identify where the Corps may be able to help the state quickly convert facilities for medical needs as necessary, but he said no site have been chosen yet.

He also defended his decision to hold off on issuing a shelter-in-place order for Massachusetts as the coronavirus crisis intensifies.

"Every decision I made when I got into this was either too much or too little. And I think we should all remember that there are trade-offs associated with every one of these."

He said any further decisions he makes on restricting people's movement will be based on the number of positive cases found in the state. However, the governor made it clear that even shelter-in-place orders in other states like California and New Jersey still allow for some movement. "You can still — in all those other places that have issued orders like that — go to the grocery store. You can still go to the pharmacy. You can still go for a walk. And none of those places is the fundamental position of government, state or local, that people should spend all of their time inside," Baker said.

Mike Deehan contributed to this story.