New gatherings order takes effect in Mass.; violators could face fines


BOSTON, Mass. (WPRI) — New restrictions focused on large gatherings in Massachusetts went into effect on Tuesday, and hosts found to be in violation could face hefty fines.

Last Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a revised executive order on regulating gatherings throughout the Commonwealth, saying there have been many reports of indoor and outdoor parties contributing to community spread of COVID-19.

While Massachusetts has seen a decrease in new cases and hospitalizations since May, Baker said there has been a slight uptick in certain communities as of late.

“The contact-tracing data that we’ve been working with shows that time and time again, if you give this virus an opportunity to move, it will,” Baker said Friday.

“These parties are too big, too crowded, and people are simply not being responsible about face coverings, social distancing, or any of the major metrics that we put in place to help people manage the spread of this virus,” he added.

Effective Tuesday, the updated gatherings order will:

  • Reduce outdoor gatherings from 100 people to 50 (indoor gatherings remain at 25)
  • Apply these limits to all types of gatherings, on both public and private property
  • Require face coverings where more than 10 people from different households will be mixing

Hosts not following the order could face a civil fine of up to $500 per violation, according to Baker.

The governor is not alone in making changes to social gatherings and enforcement.

Just last week, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she was launching a hotline to report large gatherings. Rhode Island State Police have gotten more than 400 calls since Aug. 5, though troopers only responded to 56 of them.

More: No fines issued despite hundreds of calls to RI’s large gathering hotline »

Of the calls troopers responded to, Lt. Col. Kevin Barry told Eyewitness News the crowds dispersed without incident.

“We are also trying to educate them as well because some people aren’t aware of the order,” Barry said Monday.

Last week in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a crackdown on house parties bringing hundreds of people together despite orders banning such gatherings.

Effective since last Friday, police in L.A. can ask the city’s Department of Water and Power to shut off service to houses and businesses hosting parties within 48 hours.

Garcetti said public health officials as well as police officers and sheriff’s deputies could deliver the message that large gatherings must be shut down, and that the risk of having water and power shut off was the only enforcement tool that worked.

“You’re breaking the law, ” Garcetti said. “We have the right to make sure that more lives are not lost.”

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