BOSTON — The governor brought down the hammer Monday — stronger masking order, reducing gathering limits, early closures — in an attempt to reduce the rising number of novel coronavirus cases in the state.
"The simple truth is this, too many of us have become complacent in our daily lives. I know it's hard for people to hear me say this time and time again, but it's true," Gov. Charlie Baker said at Monday's press conference. "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."
Last several weeks have seen a spike in new cases — close to a 1,000 a day compared to 200-300 over the late summer — and a seven-day positive rate average that's climbed from 0.8 percent to 1.8-1.9 percent. Daily case counts are up by 300 percent and inpatient hospital counts by 145 percent.
"The data points to a clear need to do something about these trends. Now, what we should not do to deal with these trends is shut down our economy, or close our schools to deal with this," the governor said. "Schools are not spreaders here, or anywhere else. It's been proven now over and over and over again by real life experience and longitudinal studies. In Massachusetts, the vast majority of employers and employees and customers have done a great job, playing by the rules and limiting transmission."
The governor pointed to large gatherings — such as Halloween parties held over the weekend where "people piled all over and on top of each other" — and failure to comply with masking and social distancing protocols.
"The recent data and surveillance are suggesting that trends for new cases and hospitalizations are going in the wrong direction," said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. "We must stop that from happening by acting now."
Polito said, as co-chair of the Reopening Committee, how hard the business community had worked to safely reopen and the sacrifices it has made. Restaurants, she said, have done a good job of being creative and innovative in serving customers and it shows in the public health data: restaurants are not linked to COVID outbreaks.
A summary of the new orders going into effect on Friday, Nov. 6.
1) A stay-at-home advisory from 10 p.m. at night to 5 a.m. in the morning with exceptions for work, critical errands and taking a walk
2) Restaurant, indoor and outdoor activities, cultural and recreational facilities close at 9:30 p.m., although restaurants can continue to provide takeout food past that time. No alcohol or recreational pot sales after 9:30 p.m.
3) Wearing masks in public for anyone age 5 and older; medical exclusions will require proof.
Full listings for each order can be found by following the links within the lists.
There will be civil penalties for violating these regulations but they will be up to local enforcement.
Officials say that the focus should be on staying home with those whom you share a home. Family gatherings that include people outside your regular "pod" can spread the disease. Last week's weekly public health update reported that the largest clusters of transmission was in households.
Baker repeated some of what he had said last week about Thanksgiving, noting that sitting around a table or on a couch watching football on television, or attending a baby shower, are vectors for transmission because people let their guard down.
"It's important that we embrace these changes. We do need to adjust how we live and accept the responsibility that we all have every single day to fight COVID. And if we do it, we can it will stop the spread," the governor said. "How do I know that I know that? Because we've done it before. And we can do it again because we know what works, we've learned a lot since the beginning of this pandemic 10 months ago."
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The Berkshires are expected to get hit with up to 6 inches of snow as the leading edge of a 1,500-mile storm system moves in the region on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., has issued a winter weather advisory for the Berkshire and Southern Vermont beginning noon Tuesday through 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
NWS is forecasting total accumulations of 3 to 6 inches with up to 8 inches possible in some higher-elevation portions of eastern New York. Snowfall could fall as fast as an inch an hour during Tuesday afternoon.
The city of Pittsfield has already declared a snow emergency from 7 a.m. on Tuesday until 7 p.m. on Thursday. City residents are reminded of the alternate parking scheme for snow emergencies: park on the even side of the street from 7 a.m. Tuesday through 7 a.m. on Wednesday; then switch to the odd side through 7 a.m. on Thursday.
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Principal Justin Kratz told the School Committee last Thursday that instead of inviting area eighth-graders to the school for the annual showcase and look at after-school programming, the school's recruitment efforts will be virtual.
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