Baker extends coronavirus restrictions as hospitalizations, ICU admissions mount

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday announced that he is extending coronavirus restrictions in anticipation of a post-holiday surge as hospitalizations and ICU admissions continue to mount at health care facilities across Massachusetts.

Business restrictions for capacity limits and reduced gathering limits that went into effect on Dec. 26 will remain in place until at least Jan. 24, Baker said during a news conference at the State House. They were slated to expire on Jan. 10.

Under the restrictions, restaurants, close contact personal services, theaters and performance venues, casinos, office spaces, places of worship, retail stores, indoor golf facilities, libraries, arcades, gyms and fitness centers, museums, guided tours, and other indoor businesses must keep capacity limits at no more than 25 percent.

Indoor gatherings will remain limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings will remain limited to 25 people outside. The gatherings limit applies to private homes, event venues, and public spaces.

“We need to stay in the game a little longer, especially during this most crucial period to stop the spread of the virus and build the bridge to vaccines,” Baker said.

The capacity limits do not apply to K-12 schools.

In the past six weeks, COVID hospitalizations have skyrocketed by 145 percent and the rate of patients admitted to the ICU has grown by 111 percent, Baker said. On Thanksgiving, state hospitals were about 65 percent occupied, but they’re currently 84 percent filled.

While field hospitals in Lowell and Worcester have helped ease the burden on frontline health care workers, Baker stressed that more must be done to assist in the battle against the pandemic.

“As the health care system absorbs the magnitude of the impact of the holiday season, the need more relief,” Baker said.

In response to the continued rise in hospitalizations, Baker announced that all regions across the state will be escalated to Tier 4 status.

In Tier 4, the hospitals in each region will meet at least daily, and will continue to collaborate across regions where necessary, to address growing capacity constraints and continue to load balance as needed.

Baker said the state is also allowing the deployment of acute nursing staffing under certain circumstances.

Effective immediately, hospitals with severe capacity constraints may request a temporary exemption from the mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in the ICU.

The option will only be available to hospitals with capacity of less than 20 percent.

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