Mass. imposing new restrictions after Christmas to prevent another surge

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced that Massachusetts will be imposing a new set of business restrictions and a change in gathering limits after Christmas in an effort to prevent another post-holiday coronavirus surge.

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Beginning on Saturday, Dec. 26, restrictions aimed at “pausing activity” and “reducing mobility” will take effect at many businesses across the state, Baker said during a news conference at the State House.

The restrictions will remain in place for at least two weeks.

“Our hospitals are now under significant pressure and we’re heading toward another period, this holiday stretch, where we’re likely to see another significant increase in cases and hospitalizations unless everybody plays a very different game than the one we all played at Thanksgiving,” Baker said. “As a result, we think it’s appropriate to take action now to slow that spread. And we must do so in a way that can avoid overriding our hospital system.”

Capacity limits will be reduced to 25 percent at restaurants, close-contact personal services, theaters and performance venues, casinos, office spaces, places of worship, retail and grocery stores, driving and flight schools, indoor golf facilities, libraries, places for lodging, arcades, indoor recreation businesses, fitness centers and health clubs, cultural facilities, and guided tours, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said.

Workers and staff will not count towards the occupancy totals at restaurants, close-contact personal services, places of worships, and retailers such as grocery stores, according to Polito.

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Schools will not be impacted by the new capacity limits.

Indoor gatherings will be restricted to 10 people at private homes, public spaces and event venues, while outdoor gathering limits will be lowered to 25 people, Baker added.

All hospitals have also been directed to postpone or cancel all nonessential inpatient elective invasive procedures in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity to treat people suffering from COVID-19.

As of Monday, there were 1,991 people hospitalized with coronavirus and 410 patients in the ICU, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

In addition to the new rules, mask requirements, social distancing guidelines, and a stay-at-home advisory of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will remain in effect.

RELATED: Nearly 30,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Mass.

The state decided to add the new restrictions because health officials are fearful residents will ignore warnings to avoid holiday gatherings this season, potentially increasing the transmission of COVID-19, according to Baker.

With Massachusetts’ health care system on the brink of being overwhelmed, Baker on Monday again begged residents to stay home for the holidays.

Baker’s desperate plea came after many residents ignored guidance from officials and gathered on Thanksgiving, resulting in tens of thousands of new virus cases in the weeks that followed the holiday.

Baker and Polito both stressed that they hope residents play by the rules so the temporary restrictions can be lifted after the two-week period is up.

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