BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said he wanted to signal the seriousness of the situation. “Today we’re announcing new statewide restrictions that will be in place for at least two weeks starting Saturday December 26,” Baker said.
The new limits put a 25% capacity limit on restaurants, stores, theaters, casinos, offices, places of worship, gyms, arcades, and museums. It comes as businesses struggle to stay alive. The governor said the reason is concern that rising post-Christmas COVID-19 rates will put a squeeze on hospitals that are already strained.
“By limiting capacity we are sending a message that we would like to see people spend the next couple of weeks between Christmas, and sort of, the week after New Year’s…just with those they live with,” he said.
Somerville gym owner Jeff Butterworth doesn’t believe gyms like his are part of the problem. For the past week he’s been, “respectfully disobeying,” a rollback in Somerville requiring gyms to shut down. “We have people no closer than 14 feet from each other,” Butterworth says, “wearing masks is going to limit the potential for spread entirely.”
Right now only current members are welcome to use the gym, which is equipped with air purifiers. “We have air purification systems, hospital grade HEPA 13 filters that are scrubbing the air every 30 minutes.” Each workout station is clearly marked for social distancing, masks are required, and stations are sanitized routinely. “We really think that we are doing can be a good model for other indoor businesses.”
Butterworth says he will obey the governor, though, and even go below the 25% capacity. He says he plans to limit occupancy at his gym to just 10 people at a time, but he can’t do it for very long. “The pressures from the financial standpoint are high,” he says, “we’re paying our rent still, our utility bills are here.”
Butterworth fears extended restrictions, or a shutdown could be the end for many gyms including his. “If we had to shut down again, I don’t know that we will be able to recoup those losses, and a lot of other gyms like us would also have to close,” Butterworth said.
Despite Baker’s pleas, passengers lined up for tickets at Logan Airport Tuesday. “I’m not really sure I would have expected that at the end of the day we could drive people away from coming home who are planning to come home anyway,” said Governor Baker.
There’s more. Massachusetts hospitals are now postponing non-essential elective procedures. As for gatherings, outdoor events are restricted to 25 people, while indoor events can only have 10.
WBZ-TV’s Nick Emmons contributed to this report.