BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday that all communities will return to Phase 3 Step 1 beginning Sunday. “Here we are today, 12 days past Thanksgiving, and new infections and hospitalizations are showing disturbing trends,” Baker said.
Moving back to Phase 3 Step 1 will close certain businesses including indoor performance and high contact indoor recreational facilities. It will reduce the capacity to 40% for most open industries and restaurant tables will return to a maximum of six people. Limits on outdoor gatherings at event venues will go from 100 to 50. Anyone hosting private outdoor gatherings of over 25 people will have to notify their local board of health.
Other regulation changes include when eating indoors at a restaurant, patrons will now have to wear masks unless they are eating and drinking. This means when patrons order, both they and the waiter will be masked.
Davio’s owner Steve DiFillippo said he believes restaurants seem to be “the fall guy” when COVID cases rise.
“Restaurants are safe,” DiFillippo said. “We’re doing a great job, all the tables six feet apart and you know the data shows that people are not getting COVID in restaurants.”
“Don’t go to a friend or a neighbor’s house without a mask on, and share food and drink, just because they’re your friend,” Baker said.
According to the governor, over the last four weeks, confirmed COVID hospitalizations have increased by about 150%, and confirmed cases in the ICU have increased by about 110%. Eleven hospitals across the state are now reporting fewer than 10% of adult inpatient beds open and available.
“The days of most people doing most of the right things are probably not enough,” Baker said. “Significantly more people are suffering from severe COVID related illnesses… and this sharp increase is putting a strain on our healthcare system and our frontline health care workers.”
On Monday, the state announced it is postponing elective inpatient hospital procedures amid a “rapid increase” in cases.
“We cannot simply wait for the vaccine to get here,” said Baker.
Lt. Gov. Kayrn Polito said, “These restrictions today are targeted ways we can fight back again the second surge of the virus. I urge the public and all industries to take this seriously so that we can keep our businesses open and our economy running.”
There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, with a vaccine on the way, she said. “We were all hoping not to see a second surge, but this is what we have and we need to get through it. We will do so together.”
Baker acknowledged the hardship that comes with closing parts of the economy. He said closing almost everything down in the spring “had a calamitous impact on people who didn’t have MBAs, or MPHs, or the ability to do their job from home or were white-collar workers, or worked in finance or accounting or law. The people who really got creamed by that were the people who actually have to get up and go to work somewhere. I think a lot about that when I make these decisions. And I also think about it a lot when I think about personal behavior… These decisions might seem easy to some people who don’t have to live with them, but they don’t feel that easy to the people that do.”
Massachusetts is in the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases. There are 1,516 people currently hospitalized for a coronavirus-related illness as of Monday, an increase of 100 since Sunday.