For the second time this month, Gov. Charlie Baker is attempting to stem the surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Massachusetts with more stringent restrictions starting Saturday.
Baker announced a series of new rules Tuesday that crack down on gatherings and businesses and require hospitals to halt most elective surgeries.
Starting Saturday and running until at least noon on Jan. 10, restaurants, movie theaters, performance venues, casinos, offices, places of worship, retail businesses, fitness centers, health clubs, libraries, golf facilities, driving and flight schools, arcades, museums, and "sectors not otherwise addressed" must limit their customer capacity to a maximum of 25%.
All indoor gatherings and events will be limited to 10 people, while all outdoor gatherings and events will be limited to 25 people. Workers and staff are excluded from events' occupancy counts. The gatherings limit applies to private homes, event venues and public spaces.
Massachusetts hospitals must push back or cancel most elective inpatient invasive procedures that are nonessential starting Saturday as well, the state announced.
On Dec. 8, Baker announced that the state would move back a step in his phased reopening plan effective Dec. 13. That rollback meant capacity limits were lowered across an array of businesses, some indoor recreation venues were ordered to close again, and rules around mask-wearing and dining out were tightened.
State Rep. Jon Santiago, who is also an ER doctor at Boston Medical Center, has pressured leaders in Massachusetts to move more quickly and said that the latest restrictions do not go far enough.
"It's too little too late. I mean, we are in an emergency right now," Santiago said. "And so I would prefer we look forward to closing things like casinos and more indoor institutions - dining being one of them."
But Baker has said these steps are more favorable to a complete lockdown across the state, like the one that was imposed earlier this year. Business owners argue that the restrictions are making it near-impossible for them to operate.
However, a day after announcing the new business restrictions, Baker said Massachusetts restaurants, retailers and other small businesses hurt by the pandemic will be eligible for grants through a new $668 million small business relief fund operated by the state.
Baker and other health officials in New England have urged residents to celebrate the holidays safely this year by limiting gatherings to immediate household members.
More Coverage on Mass. Coronavirus Restrictions
A new slate of restrictions for Massachusetts gatherings, businesses and elective surgeries was announced Tuesday, the latest to come amid a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, with fears of another one arriving after the holidays.