Additional COVID orders start Saturday

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to the media on the Covid-19 situation in Mass. on Dec. 22, 2020. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Gathering and capacity limits reduced for at least two weeks

BOSTON – In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 post-holidays and not overwhelm hospitals, additional guidelines are in effect starting Dec. 26 for at least the next two weeks, said Gov. Charlie D. Baker.

Baker said Dec. 22 that the new capacity limit for many businesses will be 25%, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people and private indoor gatherings reduced to 10 people.

“This is part of what we must do during this crucial period when the vaccine is just months away,” said Baker.

Baker said the fall decrease in COVID cases went by the wayside following Thanksgiving and the spike has caused hospitalizations to skyrocket. As of Tuesday, Baker said there were 3,760 new cases in the state, with 1,991 patients in hospitals, 410 of which are in intensive care units.

He said the new orders were “for just one year,” and asked residents to celebrate Christmas and New Year only with those in their own household. He said if people had “plans to do anything other than that,” they were urged to follow all guidelines for distancing, face covering, hand washing, etc.

“Remember the people you’re safest with are the people you live with every day,” he said.

Baker said what they learned from Thanksgiving gatherings was that people will gather, and COVID will spread.

“We’re likely to see another increase in cases and hospitalizations unless we play this very differently that we all played it at Thanksgiving,” said Baker, adding that the intent of the new orders was to “pause activity and reduce mobility.”

“I think most important thing we want out of this is to make absolutely clear to people that the best and most safe thing we can all do for the next few weeks is to spend as much time with those we live with as possible and to not treat the period between Christmas and New Year’s the way we normally do, which is a constant race to connect with, catch up with, hang out with, grab a drink with, grab a meal with, all those people you haven’t seen since the last time you saw them last year,” Baker said.

Baker said adhering to the new guidelines for at least the next two weeks would help “build a bridge” until vaccines roll out to the public.

Baker said he chose the day after Christmas to start the new orders so that people can worship.

“Honestly, the main reason we picked the day after Christmas instead of the day before Christmas was, we know that many people, hopefully, will participate in a faith service of some kind — safely — on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day,” the governor said. “Now, it’s perfectly possible to do that safely. And we would hope people would follow the rules, follow the guidance, do the things we’ve talked about if they choose to do that.”

The new capacity limits affect 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.”

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