Restaurants, gyms, casinos, offices, churches, libraries, movie theaters, arcades, golf facilities, museums and more must cut capacity to 25% of their maximum for “at least” two weeks as coronavirus continues to surge in the state ahead of the holidays, Gov. Charlie Baker said.
The new restrictions take effect on Saturday.
“Our hospitals are now under significant pressure and we’re heading toward another period over this holiday stretch where we’re likely to see another significant increase in cases and hospitalizations unless everybody plays a very different game than the one we all played at Thanksgiving,” Baker said, speaking at the State House on Tuesday.
“We think it’s appropriate to take action now to slow that spread and we must do so in a way that can avoid overrunning our hospital system,” Baker continued.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito — who has led the charge on the states reopening following widespread business shutdowns when the pandemic first struck in the spring — clarified the capacity restrictions would “exclude staff.”
The stringent but “necessary” cutback is expected to be another gut punch to the state’s already hard-hit small businesses, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kenneally said.
“We appreciate the sacrifices of our small businesses,” Kenneally said.
The governor said he will make an announcement on Wednesday relative to a “significant” funding program to help commercial districts weather the financial hit of continued rollbacks.
The new restrictions are in addition to existing guidelines including a stay-at-home advisory and face-covering mandate, Baker said.
Gathering sizes will also see reductions: cut to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors — including for events, Baker said.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said hospitals must “cancel all elective invasive procedures” beginning Dec. 26.
Despite the cutback, Sudders insisted “we are not shutting down health care.”
“Ambulatory, outpatient treatment, preventive procedures, including mammograms, pediatric appointments, radiology, cancer screenings, are not impacted. Inpatient and emergency services remain open,” Sudders said.
The announcements came one day after Gov. Charlie Baker hinted more coronavirus restrictions would come as hospital capacity is pushed the brink.
“After thanksgiving infections and hospitalizations skyrocketed and since then we’ve seen that slow down slightly but certainly not enough,” Baker said.
The governor insisted the pause is a “temporary move to deal with a very particular and very specific issue.”
“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. If we can all agree to do the things that slow the spread over the next two weeks, it will help us work on building the bridge we all need to build to the vaccine,” Baker said.
Last Monday, Baker rolled back the state’s reopening to Phase 3, Step 1, shuttering performance venues and certain “high-contact indoor recreational businesses” including roller rinks, trampoline parks, laser tag venues, fitting rooms and escape rooms.
Other businesses — including retail stores, gyms, offices, churches, libraries, movie theaters, arcades, golf facilities and museums — cut capacity to 40%, down from 50% of their maximum.