By SCOTT JACKSON
To curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced a new stay-at-home advisory that asks residents to remain home overnight, imposed new limits on gatherings at private residences, set a new closing time for a variety of businesses, and toughened the requirement to wear masks in public settings.
The governor’s new orders, which take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, come as Massachusetts has recorded 1,000 or more cases of COVID-19 each day since Oct. 24. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has also increased from 320 on Sept. 1 to 436 on Oct. 1 and 613 on Sunday.
Baker said the increase in new daily cases and the rise in hospitalizations require the state to step in and take action to stop the spread of the virus while keeping the economy and schools open.
“The data points to a clear need to do something about these trends now,” Baker said during a State House press conference.
“What we should not do to deal with these trends is shut down our economy or close our schools to deal with this. Schools are not spreaders, here or anywhere else. It has been proven now over and over and over again by real-life experience and longitudinal studies. And in Massachusetts, the vast majority of employers, employees and customers have done a great job of playing by the rules and limiting transmission.”
Without action, Baker warned the state’s health care system could be overwhelmed by new cases by the end of December.
“If we do nothing and stay on the track we’re on now, we’ll create capacity problems for our health care system by the end of the calendar year,” he said. “Imagine what that would be like for your friends and neighbors who work in health care if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at double digit rates straight into and through the holiday season. Double shifts, no time for families, the same urgency and demands on their time that we placed on last spring.
“They bailed us out last spring with their grit, creativity and determination and they are worried about what they see every single day. They deserve our best efforts to avoid recreating the high case and hospital counts that we all lived through last spring.”
The revised stay-at-home advisory asks residents to stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. During those hours, residents should only be leaving their homes to go to work or school or for essential trips such as seeking emergency medical care, going to the grocery store or a pharmacy, picking up take-out food, and or receiving deliveries. Residents are also allowed to go outside to take a walk or exercise.
The gathering order reduces the size limit for indoor gatherings at private residences to 10 people and outdoor gatherings at private residences to 25 people. The limit on gatherings in public spaces and event spaces – like wedding venues – remains unchanged. Regardless of location or size, all gatherings must end and disperse by 9:30 p.m.
A variety of businesses will also be required to close at 9:30 p.m.
In-person dining must stop at 9:30 p.m., but takeout and delivery can continue for food and non-alcoholic beverages.
Liquor stores and other retailers that sell alcohol will be required to stop alcohol sales at 9:30 p.m. but can continue selling other products. Adult-use marijuana sales must also end at 9:30 p.m. but medical marijuana sales can continue past that.
Indoor and outdoor event spaces must close at 9:30 p.m. as well as indoor and outdoor performance venues, theaters and movie theaters, including drive ins.
Other businesses and activities that must close at 9:30 p.m. include youth and adult amateur sports; golf facilities; recreational boating and boating businesses; outdoor recreational experiences; casinos and horse tracks/simulcast facilities; driving and flight schools; zoos, botanical gardens, wildlife reserves and nature centers; close-contact personal services such as hair and nail salons; gyms, fitness centers and health clubs; indoor and outdoor pools; and museums, historic sites and other similar cultural facilities.
The underlying goal of the new orders is to have people home by 10 p.m., Baker said.
“We’d really like people to be home by 10 o’clock with the people they live with,” he stated.
The new mask order requires everyone over the age of 5 to wear a face covering in public at all times. It replaces a previous order that required masks or face coverings be worn in public only when social distancing was not possible.
“We’re basically saying if you go out in public, wear a mask,” Baker said.
Public locations include but are not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers; public transportation, taxis, livery services and ride-share vehicle like Uber and Lyft; public streets and ways; and any location that hosts indoor or outdoor events or performances. Masks or face coverings are also required if carpooling with non-household members.
The governor said he expected the new orders to be in effect for at least a month. For Thanksgiving, he said families should limit their celebrations to ten people if they are not from the same household.
Enforcement of the new orders will be left to local officials, Baker stated. Local police or other officials, he explained, would likely break up gatherings that exceed the size or time limits and send those in attendance home. Frequent violators could be subject to civil penalties.