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As COVID-19 cases creep up, Mass. doubles down on slowing the spread

People waited in line to get a COVID-19 test at Tufts Medical Center in Boston last week.
People waited in line to get a COVID-19 test at Tufts Medical Center in Boston last week.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker has tapped the brakes on the state’s reopening amid concern about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, and starting this week, new limits on gatherings begin as part of stepped-up efforts to slow the disease’s spread.

The measures — which authorize state and local police to issue fines for noncompliance — come after the state reported 286 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 112,459.

The death toll due also increased by 14, bringing the total number of confirmed dead in Massachusetts to 8,514.

The three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 deaths increased to 13 as of Thursday, up from 12 a day earlier, the state reported.

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More than 1.3 million people have been given molecular tests for the virus, including 17,152 new people tested as of Sunday, the state reported. The seven-day average positive rate for the molecular tests was 1.8 percent Saturday, the second day in a row at that level.

Cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts peaked in the spring. Since then, the rate of new cases has declined. But that has “caused some residents to feel a bit too relaxed about the seriousness of this virus,” Baker said Friday.

With the recent increases in coronavirus numbers, Baker has indefinitely postponed the second stage of Phase 3. That step of the reopening would have allowed playhouses and music venues to allow customers inside. Activities with a greater potential for contact, like roller skating, would have also been allowed.

Baker has criticized some in Massachusetts for not adhering to coronavirus rules meant to keep people safe, citing parties in some towns that led to new cases of the disease.

On Friday, he announced the formation of a new COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team that will work in high-risk communities and help coordinate local efforts.

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Baker has warned about large gatherings’ risks, and rising numbers of new cases have led him to reduce the limit on outdoor groups, from 100 people to 50, starting Tuesday.

Officials have sanctioned the operators of a Gardner hotel that violated COVID-19 provisions when it held two weddings at which hundreds gathered on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2.

State and city officials said they have levied a total of $3,000 in fines, including eight separate $300 finesfrom the state Department of Labor Standards. The City of Gardner has fined the hotel $600.

The state fines, dated Friday, cited the hotel operators for violating coronavirus rules for restaurants and events, as well as measures that limit outside gatherings to 100 people, require face masks at events, and have closed dance floors until Phase 4 of the reopening.

Nicole Moorshead, the hotel’s general manager, declined to comment on the state fines in an e-mail Sunday.

“I am not aware of those fines at this time. I cannot comment until I receive them,” Moorshead said of the state citations. “As for the fines from the city, we are in receipt of them and will be appealing them.”






Danny McDonald and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.