BOSTON (WPRI) — Massachusetts is taking a step back in hopes of stemming the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday.
Baker said the state on Sunday will move back to Step 1 of Phase 3 of his reopening plan. As such, indoor performance venues and high-contact recreational businesses will once again have to close, while businesses permitted to stay open will be reduced to 40% capacity.
According to Baker, the decision was made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, promote more social distancing, and reduce mobility.
“Everybody has the ability to stop the spread,” he said.
The updated guidance also includes strengthened requirements for mask-wearing in gyms, offices and restaurants, the governor said.
Restaurants will see new restrictions, with table sizes being limited to six people instead of the previous 10, along with a set 90-minute time limit for dining.
Musical performances at restaurants will no longer be permitted, and food court seating at malls will close.
Customers are also being encouraged to dine only with members of their household.
The Massachusetts Restaurant Association responded to the restrictions.
“The governor strongly defended the restaurant industry’s track record for safety and COVID related compliance, and restaurants will continue to operate within and exceed those guidelines. It is unfortunate that residents continue to gather unregulated in homes, forcing economic restrictions, and that we are still without any substantial economic relief or even a plan. Unregulated gatherings make it easy to avoid the mandated and supervised safety steps including distancing, mask wearing and frequent use of sanitizer that occurs in restaurants. We as an industry renew our commitment to providing a safe and reliable dining experience for each and every one of our guests.“
Masks will be required at all times in gyms and in offices when workers are not in their own workspace and alone. The new guidance also requests break rooms be limited or closed.
The maximum size of outdoor gatherings will decrease from 100 to 50 people.
Soon after Baker’s announcement, Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Gus Bickford released a statement criticizing the governor’s decision.
“Charlie Baker made the decision to halt certain inpatient medical care but is allowing casinos to remain open. Let that sink in. The warning signs have been flashing for weeks and rather than act to protect the vulnerable in our state, Baker just played with the metrics in an effort to convince us we were on the right track, when we were not. It’s clear what is happening now. One of the nation’s most respected public health experts joined the chorus of leaders who have been highlighting the worsening data trends, saying he is “aghast at lack of action” by Baker. The pressure finally became too much for Baker to ignore, forcing him to finally take the extremely modest steps he outlined today. No matter the issue, Baker only acts when pressured. It’s not leadership, it’s negligence.“
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