Mass. Moves Back to Phase 3, Step 1: Here's What to Know

New rules for restaurants, gyms and offices take effect Sunday, including a 40% capacity limit for most industries

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Gov. Charlie Baker is reverting to coronavirus restrictions that were in place over the summer amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts.

The entire state will backtrack to Phase 3, Step 1 of its reopening plan starting Sunday, Baker announced Tuesday, but with some amendments. Baker ordered reduced capacity for "pretty much everything," and issued new guidance for certain sectors including restaurants, offices and gyms.

"The rate Massachusetts residents are getting infected and the rate at which they are needing medical care, if all continues to move at this pace, is simply not sustainable over time, and our health care system will be put at risk," Baker said. "We have to do more."

Massachusetts began the first step of Phase 3 in July, when gyms, movie theaters, museums and outdoor venues first reopened with restrictions in place. Three months later, much of the state began Step 2 of Phase 3, which saw more restrictions loosened.

Here's everything you need to know:

Capacity Limits

  • Gyms, libraries, museums, retail stores, offices, houses of worship, driving and flight schools, movie theaters, arcades, golf facilities, lodging and other indoor and outdoor recreational businesses will be reduced from 50% to 40% capacity.
  • Gathering limits for outdoor venues will be reduced from 100 people to 50
  • Outdoor theater and performance venues will be limited to 25% capacity and capped at 50 people.
  • Anyone hosting more than 25 people outdoors will be responsible for notifying their local board of health.

Restaurant Restrictions

  • The number of people allowed at a table is being reduced from 10 to six per party.
  • Restaurants must enforce a new 90-minute time limit on dining.
  • People must wear masks at all times except when eating and drinking.
  • Musical performances at restaurants are not allowed.
  • Food court seating will be closed in malls.

Gym, Office Requirements

  • People will need to wear their masks at gyms at all times.
  • Employees must wear masks at their place of work except when they're alone in their own workspace.
  • Employers are encouraged to close or limit the use of break rooms.


  • Indoor performance venues and certain high-contact indoor recreational businesses will close.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Tuesday that all of Massachusetts will revert to Phase 3, Step 1 of its reopening plan Sunday in response to a rise in coronavirus cases. Here's what that means for you.

As recently as last week, Baker had said that he was not planning any additional COVID-19 restrictions.

Baker announced some new measures to slow the spread Monday and hinted at more to come, acknowledging a growing frustration from local politicians and health experts. Baker recently came under fire for what critics characterized as a lack of action amid an explosion in coronavirus cases.

The state is reopening a second field hospital, beefing up coronavirus testing and limiting certain surgeries to ease the strain the state's health care system. 

Massachusetts smashed its single-day coronavirus cases record twice last week. COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen 44% between Thanksgiving and this weekend.

Health officials reported 3,627 new coronavirus cases Tuesday. The state's Department of Public Health also announced 40 more deaths from COVID-19.

There have now been 10,833 confirmed deaths and 253,649 cases, according to the DPH. Another 243 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19 at this time.

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