Mass. COVID Restrictions, New Hospital Guidance: What to Know

Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday extended the coronavirus restrictions he put in place last month for another two weeks and took steps to help hospitals deal with the post-holiday surge in cases

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday that he is extending coronavirus restrictions through Jan. 24 and issued new guidance to help hospitals deal with the post-holiday surge in cases.

The series of new rules enacted last month by Baker had been set to expire on Sunday. They took effect on Dec. 26 in the wake of the post-Thanksgiving spike in coronavirus cases.

Here's a quick refresher on what the restrictions entail, and what the new hospital guidance means:

Business restrictions

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" are required to limit their customer capacity to a maximum of 25%.

Here's the full list of affected industries:

• Restaurants (based on permitted seating capacity)

• Close Contact Personal Services

• Theaters and Performance Venues

• Casinos

• Office Spaces

• Places of Worship

• Retail Businesses

• Driving and Flight Schools

• Golf Facilities (for indoor spaces)

• Libraries

• Lodging (for common areas)

• Arcades and Indoor Recreation Businesses

• Fitness Centers and Health Clubs

• Museums, Cultural Facilities and Guided Tours

• Workers and staff will not count towards the occupancy count for restaurants, places of worship, close contact personal services, and retail businesses.

Gov. Charlie Baker extends Massachusetts COVID-19 restrictions and gathering capacity limits. These restrictions do not apply to K-12 schools.

Gathering limits

All indoor gatherings and events are 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.

Local business owners are trying to find their footing after a three-week extension of restrictions that will keep many of them closed.

New hospital guidance

Massachusetts hospitals had already been forced to push back or cancel most elective inpatient invasive procedures that are nonessential under Baker's original order.

Baker announced new steps Thursday to allow hospitals to expand their ICU capacity by requesting a temporary exemption to mandatory nurse-to-patient staff ratios.

This option will only be available to hospitals with a capacity of less than 20% who first attest to the state that they have suspended all nonessential elective invasive procedures.

Additionally, hospitals must take "every reasonable step," according to the state, to expand capacity prior to requesting a temporary exemption. If a hospital's bed capacity increases or if it re-starts non-essential elective procedures, the hospital must resume compliance with the ICU staffing requirements.

Hospitals across the state are also being escalated from Tier 3 to Tier 4 status, meaning hospitals in the region will meet at least daily and continue to collaborate across regions where necessary to address growing capacity constraints and continue to load balance.

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