Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced a range of harsh restrictions, including a nightly curfew and a requirement to wear masks even when people are social distancing.
“The simple truth is this: too many of us have become complacent in our daily lives. I know it’s hard for people to hear me say this time and time again. But it’s true. We’re doing much better than many other states in many other countries. But here, too, we’ve let down our guard and we have work to do. And that’s driving the significant sustained increase in new COVID cases,” Baker, a Republican, said at a press briefing.
One of Baker’s new executive orders requires certain businesses to shut down every night at 9:30 p.m. and also forbids some activities from that time through 5 a.m.
The new orders include forcing restaurants to stop serving diners inside but letting them keep serving takeout and delivery for food and non-alcoholic beverages while requiring liquor stores and other retail establishments to stop selling alcohol.
Marijuana sales must stop each night at 9:30 p.m. but medical marijuana sales are exempt.
A host of leisure-oriented businesses, such as golf facilities, casinos, and pools, must shut down for the curfew.
Local communities can enforce the curfew with whatever means they feel is most appropriate, state officials said.
Baker also signed updated orders requiring everyone to wear face coverings in public, even if they are six feet or more away from non-household members, and restricting gatherings at private residences to 10 (indoor) or 25 (outdoor).
“I know there’s a lot to keep in mind these days with all the orders that are changing in the states doing different things. But our message here is very simple: we can’t afford to continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Baker said.
“Whenever possible, avoid gathering, no matter the location with people outside your household. And when you do go out, wear a mask, and the last part get tested.”
People who violate the gathering order face fines of $500 for each person above the limit.
Health officials in the northeastern state reported 725 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in a Monday update.
But the state has just 469 COVID-19 patients in hospitals and a 7-day average positive test rate of only 1.78 percent, a number that has remained stable for about 10 days.
Public health experts are concerned, though, about the spread of the virus and don’t want to see an uptick in patients requiring hospital care, Baker said at the briefing.
“Since Labor Day, which is 55 days ago, the number of new cases per day has grown by almost 300 percent. And over the same period of time, the number of people hospitalized on a daily basis is increased by 145 percent. Both those trends are obviously heading in the wrong direction,” he said.
Baker said he doesn’t plan to close schools and wondered aloud whether shutting them down earlier this year was the right choice, citing data that indicates virus spread in schools is not a big issue.
He recommended people think hard about not having a traditional Thanksgiving celebration with family members.
“If they’re involving a lot of people from the outside, who they don’t normally spend a lot of time with ... a day-long event with a lot of eating and drinking and a lot of close contact and hanging around, if it’s indoors with a whole bunch of people you don’t regularly spend time with, is really a perfect recipe for COVID to spread. And we would recommend against doing that,” he said.
Most COVID-19 patients recover without hospital care—a significant number experience no or few symptoms—but some require hospitalization and a small percentage die from the disease.