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Baker Rolls Back Reopening Plan in Face of Rising Virus Rates

By Tammy DanielsPrint Story | Email Story
BOSTON — The state's occupancy limits cut to 40 percent beginning Sunday as the governor rolls back the reopening phases because of rising rates of COVID-19.
Occupancy limits will be reduced to 40 percent and indoor performance venues and some indoor recreational activities will have to close. Dining indoors will be limited to six people per table for no more than 90 minutes. There will be heightened mask use and social distancing.
Gov. Charlie Baker said the rollback to Step 1 of Phase 3 reopening plan is necessary to reduce the strain on the state's hospitals during this second surge of the novel coronavirus.
 "The rate Massachusetts residents are getting infected and the rate of which they are needing medical care, if all continues to move at this pace, is simply not sustainable over time," Baker said. "And our health care system will be put at risk."
 There are more than 1,500 patients statewide with more than 300 in intensive care units. Over the past month, hospitalizations have increased by 150 percent and confirmed cases in ICUs by 110 percent. Nearly a dozen hospitals are reporting fewer than 10 percent of beds available and ICUs are nearly two-thirds full. 
 The field hospital opened last week at the DCU Center in Worcester has been accepting patients and another field hospital is being set up in Lowell. 
"Since Thanksgiving, the commonwealth has experienced a rapid increase in new infections and hospitalizations significantly more people are suffering from severe COVID related illnesses, and they do need urgent care, and this sharp increase is putting a strain on our health-care system, and on our frontline health care workers," said the governor. 
Medical centers are coming up short on critical staff because many are quarantined because of exposures or they have been infected. 
Baker on Monday had hinted that more restrictions would be forthcoming by Wednesday. Public health officials have been keeping an eye on the data and had generally looked for trends over three weeks. This time they moved ahead faster, he said, because of trend over the seven days after Thanksgiving moved so quickly.
This follows a stay-at-home advisory and gathering limit order at the beginning of the month that had seen cases trend down. 
"We saw case growth stabilized stabilized for about 10 days. People Massachusetts responded. And we were grateful to everyone for doing their part," the governor said. "But here we are today, 12 days past Thanksgiving, and new infections and hospitalizations are showing disturbing trends." 
State officials acknowledged that the state's businesses have worked diligently to aid in preventing spread but have also, particularly restaurants and the hospitality industry, suffered under the pandemic.
"We are grateful for the cooperation and the creativity of the many businesses that make up our main streets and downtown's to help us stay safe to protect our workforce and consumers alike," said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. "And as we approach the holidays. This is one of the busiest and treasured times of year especially for small businesses in the hospitality industry. And we know this has been incredibly challenging."
What's changed: 
Outdoor event venues and outdoor spaces reduced from 100 to 50 people; boards of health must be notified for gatherings of 25 or more
• Indoor performance venues and some indoor recreation businesses will close
• Arcades, health clubs, libraries, museums, offices, place of worship, retail, lodgings, movie theaters and similar venues limited to 40 percent capacity (down from 50 percent).
• Table seating at restaurants limited to six, down from 10, and mask usage required when not eating or drinking. Service capped at 90 minutes. 
• Mall food court seating closed, and social clubs under the same restrictions as restaurants. Musical performances prohibited in restaurants. 
• Mask wearing required at all times in gyms, offices, stores and common areas unless within own cubicles or if having a medical condition. Businesses should limit use of break areas and encourage work from home when possible. 
Polito said the hope was that this rollback would be temporary and urged residents to continue to follow masking, social distancing and sanitation protocols.
"These restrictions today are targeted ways we can fight back against the second surge of the virus," she said. "I urge the public in all industries to take this seriously, so that we can keep our businesses, open, and our economy running."

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