Large Gatherings A ‘Recipe For Disaster’ Baker Warns

By SCOTT JACKSON

Gov. Charlie Baker warned that large gatherings seen lately throughout Massachusetts are a “recipe for disaster” that could help the coronavirus spread.

The governor on Friday noted the state’s positive test rate for COVID-19 has increased in recent weeks from 1.7 percent to roughly 2 percent and said recent large gatherings are to blame.

“Unfortunately, these gatherings are resulting in new COVID case clusters and ramping up the spread of the virus,” Baker said. “These lapses in judgement, these missed opportunities to keep the door that we all worked so hard to close, shut, are contributing to a slight but important rise in positive cases here in Massachusetts.”

The Department of Public Health is investigating clusters arising from a large party for lifeguards in Falmouth, a house party in Chatham, a high school graduation party held in Chelmsford, a large house party in Wrentham, a party aboard a ship in Boston Harbor, a 90-person prom party in Cohasset and an unauthorized football camp in Weymouth, Baker said.

Marylou Sudders, the state’s health and human services secretary, said the Weymouth football camp included participants from 17 communities. Several of the individuals associated with that gathering have since tested positive for COVID-19.

Baker said transmission of the coronavirus is more likely in large groups of people who are neither wearing masks nor practicing social distancing.

“This behavior dramatically increases the likelihood of infecting other people and this virus can and in many cases does take off like wildfire,” he said. “The situations I just recapped are a recipe for disaster and need to stop if we want to continue to re-open and get back to a new normal in everybody’s lives here in Massachusetts.”

The governor said residents who do attend gatherings – whether indoors or outdoors – should wear a mask, avoid sharing food and drink, and use common sense. He noted indoor gatherings are presently limited to 25 people or fewer and cautioned that that limit could be reduced if necessary.

“If we continue to see a rise in new cases and changes in our public health data, we’ll have to consider a number of options, including reducing the gathering size back down to a smaller number,” Baker said.

He also said people, “need to be responsible about traveling,” and noted his new travel order goes into effect Saturday. The new order applies to all travelers arriving in the state, including residents returning home and college students coming to school for the fall semester.

Under the order, all travelers arriving in Massachusetts must fill out a form, which can be found online at mass.gov/matraveler, unless they are arriving from a state designated as being at a lower risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Those travelers subject to the new rules will be required to quarantine for 14 days unless they can produce a negative COVID-19 test result that was administered up to 72 hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts. Travelers would no longer be subject to the quarantine requirement if they receive a negative test result after they arrive in the state.

Those who violate the new rule face a fine of $500 per day.

Eight states are currently deemed lower risk: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. To be designated as a lower-risk state, a state must have a positive test rate below 5 percent and fewer than six new cases per day per 100,000 residents. Both are measured as a seven-day rolling average.

Baker on Friday also announced the start of a new public-awareness campaign, “Mask Up MA!” to remind everyone of the importance of wearing masks or other face coverings. The campaign includes a new website, mass.gov/maskup.

Masks have been mandatory in public when social distancing is not possible since May in the Bay State. Those who violate the rule face a fine of up to $300.

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