Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's new, more stringent coronavirus restrictions and advisories take effect at midnight Friday in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
Baker announced a series of executive orders Monday amid a spike in cases of COVID-19 in the state. The goal is to slow the rise in cases and keep from having to revert to Phase 1 or 2 of the state's reopening.
The new guidelines take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, which include earlier closing times for restaurants and some other businesses. Baker said they will likely remain in place for at least a month.
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Earlier this week, Baker said key health metrics were pointing to a "clear need" to take action now, adding many residents had become too "complacent" as the pandemic stretches on. The alternative, he said, is an overwhelmed health care system.
"We have a 300% increase in daily positive case rate since Labor Day, a 150% increase in daily hospital COVID census since Labor Day, and a lot of concern in our health care and hospital community about what this trend will mean if it keeps running for another eight to 10 weeks," the Republican governor said.
A stay-at-home advisory will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., with residents urged to stay home except to go to work, for a walk or to the grocery store.
Restaurants will be required to stop providing table service at 9:30 p.m., although they can continue to offer carry out after that time. Liquor sales at restaurants and package stores will also shut down at 9:30 p.m.
Baker said he understands that the regulations are "disruptive'' to the restaurant industry, but added that it's better to take targeted measures now rather than suffer the consequences in several weeks.
The governor also reduced the limit on indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people. All gatherings regardless of size must end and disperse by 9:30 p.m.
Fines for violating the gathering order will be $500 for each person above the limit. The new rules give local governments more tools to end informal gatherings that violate the rules.
"It gives them for the first time a vehicle that they can use to just tell people that it's time to go home,'' he said.
Baker emphasized the importance of wearing face coverings as the average number of new confirmed cases in Massachusetts trends upward.
"If people would just wear these things religiously for 30 days, we could kill the virus,'' Baker said as he held up his own mask.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Massachusetts has risen over the past two weeks from more than 689 on Oct. 19 to more than 1,253 on Monday.
Massachusetts reported 1,629 new confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday and an additional 27 deaths. It's a return to last week's levels after a few days under 1,000.
There have now been 9,836 confirmed deaths and 158,937 cases, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 226 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.
The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, has ticked up to 1.9%, according to the report.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has increased to 502. Of that number, 109 were listed as being in intensive care units and 55 are intubated, according to DPH.
Massachusetts' latest weekly community-level data on the coronavirus pandemic will be released on Thursday, including an updated town-by-town risk assessment map.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.