Gov. Charlie Baker announces all communities will return to Step 1 of Phase 3 of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan at a State House press conference on Dec. 8. (Photo courtesy Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

The Baker-Polito administration announced today that all communities in Massachusetts will return to Step 1 of Phase 3 of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan effective Sunday, Dec. 13.

The change will reduce indoor capacities across a broad range of sectors of the economy and tighten several other workplace restrictions.

The administration said it was announcing the rollback in response to an increase in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations since the Thanksgiving holiday that is straining the health care system in Massachusetts.

“We are in a pandemic,” Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press briefing today, “and Massachusetts is being tested once again. … We cannot simply wait for the vaccine to get here.”

The return to Step 1 will require the closure of certain businesses that had been allowed to reopen when most of the state moved to Step 2 in early October. These include indoor performance venues and certain high-contact indoor recreational businesses.

In addition, capacity limits will be reduced to 40% statewide for most industries, and the limit on outdoor gatherings will be reduced statewide from 100 persons to 50.

Additional safety measures will be applied to restaurant dining as well.

The governor said the new measures are designed to prevent infection and viral spread, especially in indoor settings. He said he expected the changes to cause stronger mask compliance, more social distancing, and limits to the time people spend with people outside of their immediate household.

The administration also announced additional guidance for certain sectors, including restaurants, office spaces and gyms, to address activities where mask wearing is not possible at all times.

Restrictions under Step 1 of Phase 3
• Outdoor gatherings at event venues will be limited to no more than 50 people.
• Hosts of outdoor gatherings of greater than 25 people will be required to provide advance notice of the gathering to their local board of health.
• Indoor theaters and performance venues and higher-contact indoor recreation businesses will be required to close to the public.
• Outdoor theaters and performance venues will be limited to 25% capacity, and no more than 50 people.
In all communities, capacity will be reduced from 50% to 40% for the following sectors:
• Arcades/indoor and outdoor recreational businesses
• Driving and flight schools
• Gyms/health clubs
• Libraries
• Museums
• Retail
• Offices
• Places of worship
• Lodging (common areas)
• Golf facilities
• Movie theaters (max. 50 people per theater)

The new capacity limits will not apply to sectors that do not currently have a percentage-based capacity limit, including restaurants, laboratories and close-contact personal services.

Revised gatherings order (COVID-19 Order No. 57)
Executive order rolling Massachusetts back to Step 1 of Phase 3 (COVID-19 Order No. 58)

Restaurants and venues
New guidelines for restaurants and other venues with seated dining are as follows:
• Patrons must wear masks at all times except when eating and drinking.
• Restaurants must seat no more than six patrons per table.
• Restaurants must impose a 90-minute time limit on tables.
• Musical performances at restaurants will no longer be permitted.
• Food court seating must be closed in malls.
• Customers are encouraged to dine only with members of the same household.

Offices and gyms
New guidelines for workplaces and gyms are as follows:
• In offices, employees must wear masks at their place of work when not in their own workspace and alone.
• Employers are encouraged to close or limit the use of break rooms.
• Patrons must wear masks at all times in gyms.
• The administration continues to encourage all employers to offer teleworking to their employees when possible.