Baker details list of gatherings that are under investigation, announces new campaign to slow spread of COVID-19

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday detailed a list of gatherings and illegal events that have resulted in new clusters of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks before he announced a new statewide campaign aimed at getting all Bay State residents to wear a mask amid the ongoing pandemic.

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Private parties, gatherings, and unsanctioned recreational activities have led to a “slight increase” in coronavirus cases in many communities, Baker announced during a news conference at the State House.

“Our daily data report has been showing a slight increase in COVID cases,” Baker said. “These lapses in judgment and these missed opportunities to keep the door that we all worked so hard to close shut are contributing to a slight but important rise in positive cases here in Massachusetts.”

The Department of Public Health is currently investigating a large lifeguard party in Falmouth, a house party in Chatham, an unauthorized football camp in South Weymouth, a high school graduation party in Chelmsford, a large house party in Wrentham, and a 90-person prom party in Cohasset, according to Baker.

Baker said all of the gatherings are believed to be linked to clusters of new coronavirus cases. Contact tracing is now underway.

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“These gatherings were planned by both adults and young people and demonstrate an unwillingness to accept the fact that this virus is extremely contagious and in many cases, invisible as it spreads,” Baker said. “A significant portion of the population that gets infected by COVID will not show symptoms but they can, and often do, pass the virus on to others who do get very sick and in some cases die. Anecdotal evidence in Massachusetts makes clear that this has happened a lot over the last four months.”

Baker also spoke about a gathering at Baystate Health, where people got “lax” about wearing face coverings in the break rooms, resulting in dozens of new coronavirus cases.

The state is also investigating a party on a private boat in Boston Harbor as a cluster, according to Baker. Photos showed dozens of people packed on the deck and not social distancing.

“After battling COVID for months, our healthcare experts know that transmission is more likely in very large groups where people aren’t wearing face coverings of socially distancing,” Baker said. “This virus can, and in many cases, does take off like wildfire. The situations I just recapped are a recipe for disaster.”

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Baker made it clear that large gatherings need to be stopped because the state otherwise will not be able to continue the reopening process and get back to a new normal.

“People need to do their part…If you’re having a gathering outside or inside and can’t social distance, wear a face covering,” Baker said.

If public health trends change and cases keep rising, Baker said the state will start looking to reduce gathering sizes. Current guidance instructs people to limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, and a maximum of 100 people for outdoor events.

Baker also announced “Mask Up MA!,” a new initiative aimed at getting everyone in Massachusetts to wear a mask so clusters of new cases can be prevented in the future.

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“One thing we know about COVID is that is can pass from person to person, usually through your nose and your mouth. Wearing a mask is the best way to protect yourself and to protect other people who you love, your neighbors, your friends, your family, from COVID-19,” Baker said. “It is the best way to stop the spread, and we all need to take advantage of it, so wear a mask. I do.”

Baker said the new campaign will consist of new social media testimonials and an updated PSA. More information can be found at Mass.gov.Maskup.

New travel restrictions also take effect in Massachusetts on Saturday. High-risk travelers who come into the Bay State will need to quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative coronavirus test.

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