BOSTON — Governor Baker announced new restrictions at the end of December as cases of COVID-19 continued to spike. The statewide restrictions went into effect Saturday, December 26, and those measures were set to last for at least two weeks. Now, Gov. Baker has decided to extend those restrictions for another two weeks:
- 25% capacity for most industries -- including restaurants, personal services, theaters, performance venues, casinos, office spaces, retail, houses of worship, fitness centers, libraries, lodging.
- Indoor capacity reduced to 10 people, including events
- Outdoor capacity reduced to 25 people
- All in-patient elective surgeries are to be canceled/postponed starting December 26 at 12:01 a.m.
These restrictions were in addition to the stay-at-home advisory, face mask requirement, and early closures that were already in place.
Baker said the plan was to pause activity and reduce mobility, without closing schools and businesses. He added that he was doing this to help minimize the number of people going into businesses around the holidays.
There were no changes to school guidelines.
These restrictions went into effect two weeks after Baker rolled back the entire state’s reopening plan back to Phase 3, Step 1 due to an increase in cases and hospitalizations following the Thanksgiving holiday.
Baker said people “need to play a different game” than they did at Thanksgiving, but the state is seeing higher hospitalizations since then. Baker says the state hospitals were 65% occupied at Thanksgiving, but as of January, that’s up to 84% occupied.
The Baker Administration also announced new guidance for hospitals:
Hospital Tier Escalation: The Department of Public Health’s hospital guidance, issued in early November, establishes a regional tiering system for hospitals to support continued collaboration among hospitals and sustain capacity. Since early December, all regions across the Commonwealth have been in Tier 3 status, which established a framework for greater coordination to balance patient load and ensure capacity.
Today, in response to the continued rise in hospitalizations, 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.
ICU Nurse Staffing Ratios: To support the health care system’s continued response to the surge in cases and hospitalizations, the Commonwealth is allowing the deployment of acute nursing staffing under certain circumstances. Starting today, hospitals with severe capacity constraints may request a temporary exemption from the mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in the ICU. This option will only be available to hospitals with capacity of less than 20% who first attest to DPH that they have suspended all nonessential elective invasive procedures, including those conducted in an outpatient setting under the hospital’s license. Additionally, hospitals must take every reasonable step to expand capacity prior to requesting a temporary exemption. If a hospital’s bed capacity increases, or if the hospital re-starts nonessential elective invasive procedures, the hospital must resume compliance with the ICU staffing requirements.
Under Phase 3, Step 1, restaurants were forced to follow new guidelines:
- Patrons must wear masks at all times except when eating and drinking
- Restaurants must seat no more than six patrons per table
- Restaurants must impose a 90-minute time limit on tables
- Musical performances at restaurants will no longer be permitted
- Food court seating must be closed in malls