The Baker-Polito administration yesterday announced the extension of capacity and gathering limits and new hospital guidance to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

Industry capacity restrictions and reduced gathering limits that went into effect on Dec. 26 are being extended for at least two more weeks, to Jan. 24.

The administration has posted a summary of the restrictions and yesterday’s emergency order.

Under the current restrictions, most industries in Massachusetts remain subject to a 25% capacity limit. These include:
• Restaurants (based on permitted seating capacity)
• Office Spaces
• Retail Businesses
• Libraries
• Close-Contact Personal Services
• Theaters and Performance Venues
• Casinos
• Places of Worship
• Driving and Flight Schools
• Golf Facilities (for indoor spaces)
• Lodging (for common areas)
• Arcades and Indoor Recreation Businesses
• Fitness Centers and Health Clubs
• Museums, Cultural Facilities and Guided Tours

Workers and staff do not count toward the occupancy count for restaurants, places of worship, close-contact personal services, and retail businesses.

All other rules and restrictions in each sector-specific guidance will continue to remain in effect.

Indoor gatherings remain limited to 10 people, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 25. The gatherings limit applies to private homes, event venues and public spaces.

New hospital guidance
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.

In response to a continued rise in hospitalizations, all regions across the state are being 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.

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. Hospitals with severe capacity constraints may now request a temporary exemption from mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in the ICU, under certain conditions and with DPH review.