What to Know
- Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that he is "indefinitely postponing" the next step in the state's phased reopening due to an uptick in coronavirus cases
- He also announced the formation of a new COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team and authorized police to enforce the state's coronavirus orders and levy fines
- Massachusetts is also reducing its outdoor gathering limit from 100 to 50 and updating restaurant guidance so alcohol may only be served for on-site consumption if it is accompanied by food prepared on-site
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that he is pausing the reopening of the state's economy and creating a new COVID enforcement team in response to a recent uptick in coronavirus cases.
The governor said the second step of Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan will be put on hold and the outdoor gathering limit will decrease from 100 to 50, effective Tuesday. He said he is authorizing all state and local police to enforce the orders, and that people who host events -- even on private property -- that exceed gathering limits will be subject to fines.
"In the past few weeks we have seen an uptick in COVID-19 in some communities here in the Commonwealth," Baker said. "There have been several reports of big parties in places like Falmouth, Chatham, Winthrop, Wrentham, and Cohasset, to simply name a few. There have also been reports about illegal sports camps and private boat charters where clusters of new cases have quickly developed. And just yesterday, it was reported that a 300 person wedding was held in Gardner that is being investigated and will likely result in fines."
Movie theaters, gyms, casinos, museums and more were allowed to reopen in early July as part of Phase 3. The Baker administration referred to it as Step 1 of Phase 3, but did not fully detail what would be included in the second step. On the state's reopening website, it lists indoor theater or concert hall performances, and laser tag, roller skating, trampolines and obstacle courses as the activities that would be allowed to reopen in step two of Phase 3.
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"We're starting what I would describe as a new phase of the battle against COVID," Baker said Friday. "Our people have worked hard over the past few months. Everybody's sacrificed a lot, from personal to their professional lives. Everybody's been good sports when asked to stay home and wear face coverings. But now we are seeing the virus escalate in certain areas of the Commonwealth, and we have to put together a plan to stop it."
"This fight against COVID-19 is far from over," he added. "And all of us need to work together to do the things that have proven successful in beating it previously."
Baker said the new COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team will ramp up enforcement efforts and coordinate intervention efforts in high-risk communities. He did not release the names of those communities Friday because he said he wants a chance to talk with them first.
He said the gathering limit for any outdoor event will be reduced to 50 as of Tuesday, but the limit on indoor gatherings will remain at 25. He said the limits apply to all types of locations on public or private property. He also said he was updating restaurant guidance to make clear that alcohol may only be served for on-site consumption if it is accompanied by food prepared on-site.
"We have to work hard, always, harder in some respects than ever, to contain COVID-19 and keep our economy open for business," Baker said. "We also want to keep this virus out of our communities as we head into the fall so we can give our kids a chance to get back to school."
Massachusetts reported 32 newly confirmed deaths linked to COVID-19 on Thursday — bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths to 8,691 since the start of the pandemic. It’s the most deaths reported on a single day in a month. There were just two confirmed deaths reported on Wednesday.
The state also on Thursday reported 231 newly confirmed and probable cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus. That brings the total number of confirmed and probable cases to nearly 119,900 in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.
There were 403 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of COVID-19, while 73 were in intensive care units.
The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at long-term care homes rose to 5,541 or nearly 64% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.
State House News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.