Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, including lowering capacity limits for most businesses to 25 percent and tightening limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
The new restrictions will take effect on Saturday statewide and remain in place for at least two weeks, Baker said.
Baker said the new measures are being implemented after infections and hospitalizations “skyrocketed” in Massachusetts after Thanksgiving, adding that the state is heading toward another period of holiday celebrations that could generate “another significant increase in cases and hospitalizations unless everybody plays a very different game than the one we all played at Thanksgiving.”
Here are more details on what the restrictions mean.
These are the businesses subjected to the 25 percent capacity limit, according to the state:
- Restaurants (based on permitted seating capacity)
- Close contact personal services, which in previous state guidance has included hair salons and barber shops, hair removal services, skin care services, nail care services, makeup application services, tanning salons, and tattoo, piercing, and body art services
- Outdoor theaters and performance venues
- Office spaces
- Places of worship
- Retail businesses
- Driving and flight schools
- Indoor golf facilities
- Lodging (for common areas)
- Arcades and indoor recreation businesses
- Fitness centers and health clubs, which the state said under its Phase 3, Step 1 guidance includes cardio, weight, and locker rooms in facilities, yoga, barre, cross-fit, spin, and general fitness studios, indoor common areas, indoor swimming pools, and indoor racket and courts and gyms
- Museums, cultural facilities and guided tours
Workers and staff will not count towards the occupancy count for restaurants, places of worship, personal services, and retail businesses like grocery stores, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said at the press conference.
Effective on Saturday, indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people. This applies to private homes, event venues, and public spaces.
The restrictions announced Tuesday are tighter than the limits on gatherings Baker imposed earlier this month when he moved all communities back to Phase 3, Step 1 of the state’s reopening plan. Under the previous restrictions, outdoor gatherings were capped at 50 people. Indoor gatherings at private residences were limited to 10 people under the Phase 3, Step 1 measures, but the new restrictions announced Tuesday mean indoor gatherings at event venues and in public spaces are being reduced from 25 people to 10 people.
Last week, mayors in Boston, Brockton, Lynn, Newton, and Somerville announced they would be rolling back to Phase 2, Step 2, a more restrictive step of the state’s reopening plan. The move temporarily closed a number of businesses, including indoor gyms, movie theaters, aquariums, and indoor event spaces, though those venues remain open in most other communities in the state.
Also on Saturday, hospitals in the state will need to postpone or cancel all non-essential inpatient elective invasive procedures in order to “maintain and increase inpatient capacity,” according to the state.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Tuesday that preventative procedures such as mammograms, pediatric appointments, and cancer screenings will not impacted by the rollback, and inpatient emergency services remain open.
“Together the intent of these restrictions will be to pause activity and reduce mobility so we can reduce the spread of the virus without closing our schools or businesses,” Baker said.
Baker said the new measures will be going into effect on Saturday, the day after Christmas, because he expects residents to participate in faith services on the holiday and on Christmas Eve. It’s “perfectly possible to do that safely,” Baker said, while encouraging people to follow the state’s guidance.
He reminded Massachusetts residents that other statewide measures remain in place, including a stay-at-home advisory between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., mask mandates for people over 5 years old in public, and requiring some businesses to close by 9:30 p.m. — measures that were announced in early November.