Gov. Baker announces expanded COVID-19 measures for state
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker announced a series of new measures Monday meant to curb rising COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, including a revised stay-at-home advisory, earlier closing times for many businesses and a tougher face-covering mandate.
The new measures come as the cases of the virus are up by 278% since Labor Day and hospitalizations are up by 145% during the same time period.
The revised stay-at-home advisory instructs residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The advisory allows certain activities like going to work, taking a walk and running critical errands to get groceries and address health needs.
“The simple truth is too many of us have become complacent in our daily lives,” Baker said, adding that if the state continues on the same track of new infections, there will be capacity issues at local hospitals by the end of the year.
Baker issued a new executive order requiring the early closure of many businesses and activities each night at 9:30 p.m., including requiring restaurants to stop table service and requiring liquor stores to stop selling alcohol. Movie theaters, gyms and casinos must also close at 9:30 p.m.
The Republican also revised the state’s mask mandate to require anyone above the age of five to wear a mask in public.
An earlier mandate said people should wear a mask in public if they couldn’t socially distance. Baker said the new mandate removes the social distancing language.
“We’re basically saying if you go out in public, wear a mask,” Baker said.
The changes take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Baker also signed an updated order reducing the size limit for gatherings at private residences. Indoor gatherings at private residences are now limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings at private residences are limited to 25 people.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said the state is also planning to add more than 300 workers to help boost its COVID-19 contact tracing team.
The new restrictions will hurt local businesses that have already worked to comply with earlier state guidelines and protocols, according to Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
“Instead of penalizing businesses playing by the rules that are already experiencing a drop in customers and sales, the state should attempt to take a more targeted approach to curb the spread of the virus,” Carlozzi said in a press release.
As part of the state’s increased efforts to ensure residents remain vigilant with COVID-19 protections, the state will again activate a Wireless Emergency Alert to phones in several high-risk communities Monday evening.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
On Monday, Massachusetts reported nine newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and 725 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, the first time in more than a week that the daily number of newly confirmed cases have dipped below 1,000.
The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to nearly 9,800 and its confirmed caseload to nearly 156,400.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 470 people reported hospitalized Monday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and nearly 100 in intensive care units.
The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 6,432.
HIGH SCHOOL-HYBRID LEARNING
A Massachusetts high school has delayed its transition to hybrid learning and canceled sports for two weeks after dozens of students attended a Halloween party at which they did not wear face coverings or maintain social distance, administrators said.
Classes will remain fully remote for now and hybrid learning will begin Nov. 16, Franklin schools Superintendent Sara Ahern and Franklin High Principal Josh Hanna said in a message to the school community Sunday.
All sports practices and games were canceled.
The decision was made with input from local public health officials, they said.
As many as 50 students attended the Saturday party and many scattered when police arrived, making contact tracing difficult.
“This behavior puts everyone at Franklin High School at risk and we have no choice but to remain in the remote setting for another two weeks,” the message said.
Several Massachusetts high schools have changed their lesson plans this fall because of student parties, including Wilmington, Marblehead and Lincoln-Sudbury.