Relaxed COVID Restrictions Take Effect in Massachusetts

The stay-at-home advisory from 10 p.m.- 5 a.m. expired Monday morning

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Relaxed coronavirus restrictions for many businesses took effect Monday morning while the state's stay-at-home advisory expired.

An order requiring all businesses, including restaurants, to close by 9:30 p.m. was lifted at 5 a.m. Monday, along with the state's stay-at-home advisory, which asked people to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Businesses that will be able to stay open past 9:30 p.m. include health clubs, movie theaters, casinos and more. The 25 percent capacity restriction remains in place, however, for at least another two weeks.

Additionally, liquor stores and other establishments that sell alcohol, as well as adult use cannabis retailers, will be allowed to sell those products past 9:30 p.m.

Gatherings and events may continue past that time as well, but remain subject to current capacity limits of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

At Fun and Games in Framingham, the 25-percent capacity and early closing time has been hitting them hard, like most businesses. The arcade was mostly empty Sunday.

Laser tag is shut down due to the pandemic, and workers are constantly sanitizing.

"I wish the capacity was increased a little bit but we’re working with what we have right now,” said owner Mark Dailey. 

Dailey is pleased, though, that the state's relaxed restrictions took effect Monday, including the order that required them to close their doors early.

“It’s been tight. It’s been tough," he said. "The past few weeks we’ve seen a bit of an uptick in people coming out, I think everyone is restless they want to get out they want to do something.” 

At the nearby Skybokx Sports Bar and Grill in Natick, manager Ryan Burkart says this new rollback comes just in time for Super Bowl Sunday -- especially with Tom Brady making his 10th appearance in the big game. 

“This is great news," Burkart said. "We’re very excited that Governor Baker made the decision to lift the curfew.” 

Many say they’re hopeful Massachusetts is finally trending in the right direction with vaccines. 

“I think it feels a little bit touch of hope going into the spring, hope of vaccination and a new presidency and hope for health,” said Sharon resident Beth Hoffman. 

“It’s time for people to get back. People are getting vaccinated I think we’re easing into it just enough," another person said.

While some restrictions are being eased starting Monday, businesses still can't exceed 25-percent capacity.

The announcement comes as health officials say the state's COVID-19 data looks encouraging. Hospitalizations are down 10 percent since early January, while the average positivity test rate is down 33 percent.

On Sunday, Massachusetts reported 3,750 new coronavirus cases and 67 more deaths, while the positive test rate fell from 5.51 percent Friday to 4.91 percent in Sunday's report.

In addition, more health care workers have been made eligible for Phase 1 of the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, including dentists, medical and nursing students, physical therapists, hospital interpreters, behavioral health clinicians and more. 

The order requiring restaurants in Massachusetts close by 9:30 p.m. expires Monday.

Effective 5 a.m. Monday, Jan. 25, the following businesses can operate past 9:30 p.m.:

  • Restaurants
  • Arcades & Other Indoor & Outdoor Recreation (Phase 3, Step 1 only)
  • Indoor and Outdoor Events
  • Movie Theaters
  • Outdoor Theaters
  • Drive-In Movie Theaters
  • Youth and Adult Amateur Sports Activities
  • Golf Facilities
  • Recreational Boating and Boating Businesses (e.g. charter boats)
  • Outdoor Recreational Experiences (includes haunted houses)
  • Casinos and Horse Tracks/Simulcast Facilities
  • Driving and Flight Schools
  • Zoos, Botanical Gardens, Wildlife Reserves, Nature Centers
  • Close Contact Personal Services (e.g. hair and nail salons)
  • Museums/Cultural & Historical Facilities/Guided Tours
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers and Health Clubs
  • Indoor and Outdoor Pools

The full set of rollbacks won't yet take effect in Boston, where many businesses remain closed as the city stays in Phase 2, Step 2 of its reopening process. The city reported its 50,000th case on Friday. However, the 9:30 p.m. curfew will be lifted.

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