Baker reinstating some restrictions to slow COVID-19 spread

December 8, 2020 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is reinstating some restrictions meant to help slow the spread of the coronavirus as the state experiences a second surge in cases of COVID-19, which is putting more strain on the state’s health care system.

While Baker’s move will tighten up some restrictions, restaurants, casinos and many other indoor venues will still be allowed to remain open, even as the state is again opening field hospitals to help cope with rising numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Beginning Sunday, the state will reduce the maximum number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50 under the new guidelines outlined by Baker at a Tuesday press conference. Hosts of outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people will be required to provide advance notice of the gathering to their local board of health.

Indoor theaters and performance venues will once again have to close. Outdoor theaters and performance venues will be limited to 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people. Movie theaters will be limited to a maximum of 50 people per theater.


Stores, houses of worship, gyms, libraries, museums and other indoor spaces will have to reduce their capacity from 50% to 40%. Office workers must wear masks when not in their own workspace and alone, and should work from home if possible.

At restaurants, diners must wear masks at all time except while eating or drinking. No more than six people will be allowed at a table instead of 10, and there will now be a 90-minute limit for meals. Food courts in malls will close. Diners at restaurants should only be eating with members of their households if possible.

Baker said the increase in the rate that Massachusetts residents are getting infected and the rate at which they need medical care is not sustainable over time.

“Massachusetts is being tested again,” Baker said. “We have to do more.”

Baker defended his decision to allow restaurants to continue offering indoor dining.

“Anybody who’s been in a restaurant for the past eight months knows it’s a totally different experience from what it was before and that’s a good thing,” Baker said.

Among those who have criticized Baker for not taken more aggressive action is Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, who said on Twitter Saturday that he’d gone “from uncomfortable to aghast at lack of action” by Baker in the face of the increased spread of the disease.

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy also faulted Baker.

“Educators are desperate to teach their students in person, but they are growing increasingly frightened as cases rise among students and staff,” Najimy said in a written statement Tuesday.

On Friday, hospitals will put a temporary halt to in-patient elective surgeries that can safely be postponed.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders on Tuesday also put out a call for doctors, nurses and other medical workers to help staff field hospitals in Worcester and Lowell.

Baker said he understands the tightened restrictions will be difficult for many businesses and residents.

“We’re social people. We miss our friends,” he said. “We get it.”



The number of those requiring hospital care for COVID-19 continues to climb in Massachusetts.

There were more than 1,550 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of confirmed cases of the disease, with more than 300 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 68.

On Wednesday, the state also reported that the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by more than 3,600 while the number of confirmed coronavirus deaths increased by 40.

The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 10,833 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 253,600.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 6,920.