Dining restrictions, mandated closure of some businesses now in effect as Massachusetts seeks to curb spread

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Massachusetts is now back in the first step of Phase 3 following a rollback of the COVID reopening plan announced by Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday.

The Republican governor announced the restrictions following a surge in COVID cases in the days after Thanksgiving.

Below is how step back will change day-to-day life in Massachusetts:

When did it go into effect?

The order went into effect this Sunday. The governor announced the new restrictions last Tuesday, allowing businesses to make necessary adjustments to continue operations or shut down in time.

It will remain in effect until rescinded by the governor or the state of emergency is ended in Massachusetts.

What businesses are closed?

Several high contact indoor recreational businesses were ordered to close again under the guidelines. These include roller skating rinks, trampoline parks, obstacle courses, laser tag and escape rooms. Also, indoor theaters and performance venues must close under the step back. Outdoor theaters and performance venues may remain open at 25% capacity, capped at 50 people.

What about outdoor events?

The limit on outdoor gatherings is reduced to 50 people. Previously, the cap was 100 people. To host an outdoor gathering of more than 25 people, the local board of health must be given advance notice.

Can I still go to my friend’s house?

Indoor gatherings at private homes are limited to a maximum of 10 people. Outdoor gatherings at homes are capped at 25 people.

Time limit remains in effect

The previously announced stay-at-home advisory remains in effect.

All residents are instructed to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily. Exemptions to the advisory are made for commuting to work, essential needs such as grocery shopping or seeking medical care, or taking a walk.

As part of this advisory, a number of businesses must close by 9:30 p.m. nightly. Those industries include: restaurants; liquor stores and other retailers that sell alcohol; adult-use cannabis sales, excluding medical marijuana; hair and nail salons; gyms; casinos and simulcast facilities; indoor and outdoor events and performance venues; movie theaters, including drive-ins; youth and adult amateur sports; and golfing areas.

While restaurants must close for indoor and outdoor dining by 9:30 p.m., takeout and delivery can continue.

All gatherings must end by 9:30 p.m., with the exceptions of religious and political gatherings.

What if guests stay past 9:30 p.m.?

Local health and police departments can issue fines for violations of gathering limits of $500 per person above the limit at a particular gathering.

What fines can businesses face for not following the new guidelines?

The fine of $500 per person as well as possible shutdown by local health officials and police departments. For restaurants and other businesses that serve alcohol, the state or local health officials could suspend, revoke or cancel a liquor license for violation of the order.

What if someone tests positive for COVID?

If a host is notified that an attendee or someone working at an event has tested positive for COVID-19, the event host must notify their local board of health and assist with contact tracing efforts. Health officials may request a list of attendees and their contact information.

Will my office remain open?

The Baker administration announced new guidelines for workplaces, including a reduction in capacity and mask mandates. Employees must wear their masks at their workplaces when not alone in their own workspace. The office can only have 40% of capacity and break rooms must be closed. Employers are urged to allow workers who are able to do their jobs at home to continue doing so.

What changes can I expect at church?

Places of worship are restricted to 40% capacity and must impose social distancing guidelines. Previously, the governor announced that dozens of COVID-19 clusters were tied to places of worship. Those clusters led to 316 confirmed cases and 150 close contacts, the Republican governor said. One of those clusters led to 200 positive cases.

“That’s obviously a big number, but what’s more concerning is that those 200 individuals went off into their own daily routines,” Baker said at the time.

People are urged to take advantage of remote religious services in lieu of in-person.

Can I still go to the movies?

Yes, though the theater must lower occupancy. Capacity at movie theaters is lowered from 50% to 40%, with a cap at 50 people per theater.

What about arcades?

Arcades can remain open at 40% capacity. Facing lawsuits from arcade owners, Baker announced in September that arcades could reopen.

Salem-based Bit Bar accused Baker of violating the business’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, requiring it remain closed while casinos are allowed to reopen and turn on their slot machines in Phase 3.

What changes are happening to restaurants?

Think twice before ordering a multi-course meal. The new restrictions impose a 90-minute time limit on tables. All restaurant goers must wear masks at all times except when eating and drinking and no more than six people can be seated at a table together. Customers are strongly encouraged to dine only with members of their household.

Additionally, with the ban on indoor performances, no musical acts can perform at restaurants.

What about food court-style seating?

Closed. Under the new restrictions, food courts at malls are limited to takeout only.

Will libraries and museums remain open?

Yes. Both are allowed to remain open with capacity reduced by 10%.

Can I still go to the gym?

Yes, but don’t forget a mask. Gym goers must wear masks at all times, including on equipment.

Face coverings still mandated

All residents above the age of 5 are still mandated to wear face coverings in all public places, including when able to socially distance.

Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are encouraged to wear a mask.

Exemptions to the mask mandate remain for medical conditions, though the order allows employers and schools to require staff and students to show proof of a condition.

Weren’t these restrictions already in effect?

In some cities and towns, yes. Previously the state reverted a step back on a community-by-community level, updating the list weekly.

Under Baker’s executive order, high-risk communities are any that experience a positive COVID rate of greater than 8 cases per 100,000 people. Communities listed as high-risk were required to revert back to Step 1 of Phase 3.

The communities previously facing such restrictions include:

  • Abington
  • Acushnet
  • Attleboro
  • Barnstable
  • Blackstone
  • Brockton
  • Chelsea
  • Chicopee
  • Clinton
  • Dartmouth
  • Dracut
  • Dighton
  • Douglas
  • Edgartown
  • Everett
  • Fairhaven
  • Fall River
  • Fitchburg
  • Framingham
  • Freetown
  • Hampden
  • Holyoke
  • Lancaster
  • Lawrence
  • Leominster
  • Lowell
  • Ludlow
  • Lunenburg
  • Lynn
  • Malden
  • Marion
  • Methuen
  • Milford
  • Nantucket
  • New Bedford
  • Norfolk
  • Peabody
  • Rehoboth
  • Revere
  • Rockland
  • Salisbury
  • Saugus
  • Seekonk
  • Shirley
  • Somerset
  • Southbridge
  • Southwick
  • Springfield
  • Sterling
  • Sutton
  • Swansea
  • Taunton
  • Tisbury
  • Tyngsborough
  • Uxbridge
  • Westport
  • West Springfield
  • Woburn

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