COVID-19 UpdatesHCN News & Notes

State Announces New Initiatives to Stop Spread of COVID-19

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker announced a new set of initiatives aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, especially in higher-risk communities that have seen a recent uptick in cases. While Massachusetts has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since May, there has been a slight uptick in certain communities in recent days.

The administration announced a set of initiatives, including stricter statewide rules for public and private gatherings and targeted community guidance. The administration also announced that, starting this week, additional reporting for town-by-town data will be published weekly to show the spread of COVID-19 at a community level. Additionally, previously announced free COVID-19 testing in 17 communities has been extended through Sept. 12.

Baker also signed an updated gatherings order, effective Tuesday, Aug. 11, which will reduce the limit on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50 people (indoor gatherings limit will remain at 25 people); apply these limits to all types of gatherings, on both public and private property; and require face coverings where more than 10 people from different households will be mixing.

Due to the recent increase in positive cases, the second step of phase 3 of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan has been postponed indefinitely.

Restaurant rules have been updated to state that alcoholic beverages may be served only for on-site consumption if accompanied by orders for food prepared on-site. The administration will be taking measures to ensure that bars masquerading as restaurants will be closed. Public-safety officials, including state and local law enforcement, have the jurisdiction to enforce these orders, and event hosts in violation of these orders will be subject to fines or cease-and-desist orders.

The administration also announced a targeted cross-agency COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team that will be responsible for ramping up enforcement statewide and coordinating local intervention efforts at the local level in higher-risk COVID-19 communities.

Communities will be designated as higher-risk COVID-19 communities based on public-health data, including but not limited to rising trends for new cases and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests.