Gov. Charlie Baker announces further restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth at a State House press conference on Dec. 22. (Photo courtesy Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

In the midst of a COVID-19 surge, the Baker-Polito administration today announced further restrictions to help stop the spread in the Commonwealth, including new capacity and gathering limits.

The measures will go into effect on Saturday, Dec. 26, and will remain in effect until noon on Jan. 10, 2021, unless further extended by the governor.

Gatherings will be limited to 10 persons indoors and 25 outdoors (at both private homes and event venues and public spaces).

Many types of businesses, including restaurants, offices and retailers, must limit occupancy to 25% of capacity.

The revised limits supersede existing limits in the sector-specific protocols for Phase 3, Step 1, of the state’s four-phase reopening plan. All other terms of COVID-19 gatherings order (including exceptions) and all sector-specific workplace safety rules remain in effect.

In a press briefing, Gov. Charlie Baker pointed out that the state is not making changes in its guidance regarding K-12 schools.

He said reducing capacity at businesses was “an enormously difficult decision,” but said he was hopeful that a new federal aid package would “help to reduce the damage,” and said the administration would be unveiling a “significant” small business relief package of its own tomorrow.

“COVID-19 is relentless,” he said. “It’s been a hard year for everyone. … We all need to hang in there, stay vigilant. … The work we do now has a lot to do with the bridge we build to get to the vaccine.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito added, “It is our goal to keep these measures temporary.”

At several points, the governor expressed concerns about the burden that COVID-19 is placing on the state’s health care system.

New limits
Businesses and industries in Massachusetts subject to a 25% capacity limit include the following:
• Restaurants (based on permitted seating capacity)
• Office spaces
• Retail businesses
• Places of worship
• Libraries
• Close-contact personal services
• Fitness centers and health clubs
• Theatres and performance venues
• Casinos
• Driving and flight schools
• Golf facilities (for indoor spaces)
• Lodging (for common areas)
• Arcades and indoor recreation businesses
• Museums, cultural facilities and guided tours

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

In order to preserve health care personnel resources, the Department of Public Health released updated guidance to hospitals around nonessential, elective invasive procedures. Effective on Dec. 26, all hospitals are directed to postpone or cancel all nonessential inpatient elective invasive procedures in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity.

• See COVID-19 Executive Order #59, temporarily applying further capacity restrictions to statewide covid-19 safety rules
Link to temporary capacity and gathering limits (effective Dec. 26)
See administration’s press release on the new rules