Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced additional statewide restrictions following the increase in COVID-19 cases after the Thanksgiving holiday and the potential for another increase following the Christmas and New Years’ holidays. Baker said that these restrictions are in addition to his previously implemented restrictions, which include a stay at home advisory from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and more restrictions for restaurants.
The would go into effect on Dec. 26 at 12:01 a.m. and would reduce capacity at Encore Boston Harbor casino and at all restaurants to 25 percent. Baker said that prior to Thanksgiving, “acute hospital beds” were 67 percent occupied, but by December 15, they were 83 percent occupied and have “only recovered one percentage point since that peak.”
Baker said that since “hospitals are under significant pressure,” the administration feels that it is “appropriate to take action now,” and “do so in a way that we can avoid over running our hospital system.” The new restrictions announced will be in place for “at least two weeks,” according to Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and they do affect Encore Boston Harbor.
An emergency meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) was held late Tuesday to put the new measures into place. “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 our businesses,” Baker said. The new restrictions include a lowering of capacity limits to 25 percent “for most industries,” he said, and also includes new restrictions for both indoor and outdoor gathering limits.
The new outdoor gathering limit is 25 people, and the new indoor limit is 10 people, which includes events. “This is part of what we must do during this critical period when the vaccine is just a few months away to slow the spread,” Baker said. “Nothing we’re announcing today affects K-12 education,” he continued. “As the science and medical data have made very clear, all school districts, even those with high infection rates, can and should bring students back into the classroom.
In fact, these measures today will help districts bring students back, and bring them back soon.” He said that “the decision to restrict capacity at so many businesses is an enormously difficult decision,” and that his administration recognizes the impact it has on people’s “livelihoods and families.” The Baker-Polito administration is “putting together a significant economic relief fund for the Commonwealth’s small businesses that will be the most negatively impacted by these decisions,” Baker said.
Polito said of the new restrictions that “it is our goal to keep these measures temporary,” and that the industries impacted by the restrictions include: restaurants, personal services, theaters, performance venues, casinos, office spaces, places of worship, retail, libraries, common areas in lodging, and more. “Workers and staff will not count towards the occupancy count for restaurants, personal services, places of worship, and retail businesses such as grocery stores,” Polito said.
She told residents to plan on purchasing gift cards from local restaurants and shops to continue to support them, as well as getting takeout meals from local restaurants. “Do everything you can to support…” these businesses, she said. “I know this pandemic has been hard for everyone, but here is light at the end of this tunnel,” she said, with “thousands” of people in Massachusetts having already received their first dose of the vaccine and more on the way.
“We all know there are better, brighter, and healthier days ahead,” Polito said. For more information on the new restrictions, visit mass.gov/covid19.