Hang on to your face masks — new, slightly less forgiving coronavirus restrictions are now in effect.
In response to a worrying uptick in Massachusetts COVID-19 cases, Governor Charlie Baker announced a series of steps intended to curb the virus’s spread, all of which went into effect Tuesday morning.
Face mask protocols, outdoor group gathering sizes, restaurant operations, and enforceable violation fines are among the revisions Mass. residents should note.
Here’s what to know:
Group gathering sizes
The new order reduced the limit on outdoor gatherings from a maximum of 100 people to 50 people in a single space. For smaller areas, a limit of 25 percent of the area’s legal maximum occupancy, or eight people per 1,000 square feet, may also apply.
The new order also states that at any indoor or outdoor gathering where individuals cannot maintain 6 feet of social distance will be in violation of the new rules, no matter the number of participants.
But there are some exemptions to the order. It does not set capacity limits on public spaces like parks and beaches, or political rallies and religious activities. The provision does apply to programs, celebrations, social outings, and “any other events that draw people together,” according to the order.
The maximum occupancy for indoor gatherings remains unchanged at 25 people in a single enclosed area.
Face mask protocols
Masks are still required, indoors or outdoors, when individuals cannot maintain at least 6 feet of physical distancing. But under the new provisions, for any gathering of more than 10 people from more than a single household, all individuals over the age of 2 are required to wear a face covering, and could be fined for not doing so (see “enforceable fines”).
The new face-covering rule applies to gatherings in all venues and locations, public or private, including in homes, backyards, parks, athletic fields, and parking lots.
Individuals are exempt from the rule if they have a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
The state is doubling down on its efforts to make sure — as Baker put it — bars aren’t “masquerading” as restaurants. Starting today, alcoholic beverages can only be served at restaurants if accompanied by food prepared on-site.
According to the order, prepared food does not include potato chips, pretzels, and other pre-packaged or manufactured food.
For customers, an item of food must be ordered at the same time as an alcoholic beverage. Shared items may be ordered as long as they sufficiently serve the number of people at the table.
The Department of Public health, local boards of health, and now state and municipal police are authorized to enforce the new order. Violations can result in a fine up to $500 per violation, or a cease and desist order.
According to Baker, the new rules will remain in effect until rescinded, or when the state of emergency ends — whichever comes first.
Massachusetts is in Phase 3, step one, of the statewide coronavirus reopening plan. Governor Baker said he is postponing entering Phase 3, step two, due to concern over weakening metrics the state has been monitoring for reopening.