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Expressing grave concern regarding the ongoing surge of COVID infections, Mayor Martin Walsh today announced that the City of Boston will be implementing a significant rollback of its business reopenings, a move that many other communities throughout the region are expected to follow in the coming days.
Officials from a growing number of communities in the region, including Arlington, Brockton, Lynn, Melrose, Newton, Somerville, and Winthrop, indicated that they plan to announce similar measures, perhaps as early as today.
Because commerce and social activities are not limited by municipal boundaries, public health experts have recommended that local leaders collaborate as much as possible with neighboring communities in addressing the threat of COVID transmission. Walsh has consulted with dozens of municipal leaders in the larger metro region in the days leading to his action, and is sharing the wording of his new restrictions order as a resource to other communities.
Boston Public Health Commission COVID Restrictions Order – Dec. 14 (118K PDF)
Boston’s December 14 Advisory to Restaurants and Licensees (118K PDF)
Copy of Mayor Martin Walsh’s Press Statement (237K PDF)
As of this Wednesday, Dec. 16, Boston will return to a modified version of Phase 2, Step 2 of the state’s reopening plan to reduce further spread of COVID, preserve hospital capacity and limit the impacts on essential services.
Boston’s action comes a day after a statewide rollback of the Massachusetts reopening plan took effect, a move that took the state from Step 2 to Step 1 of Phase 3, and that, among other measures, reduced capacity in many businesses from 50% to 40% of maximum occupancy and imposed additional restrictions on indoor dining. For its part, Boston had already been at Phase 3, Step 1 of the plan, and had not advanced to Step 2.
Boston cited rising post-Thanksgiving COVID cases and serious concern on the related strain on hospitals as the reasons for its further rollback. For the week ending Dec. 6, Boston had a citywide positive test rate of 7.2%, up from 5.2% the week before. And as of Dec. 10, 90% of non-surge ICU beds were in use.
“Unfortunately, we are at the point where we need to take stronger action to control COVID-19 in Boston, and urgently, to ensure our health care workers have the capacity to care for everyone in need,” Walsh said in a statement. “We are hopeful that by reducing opportunities for transmission throughout the region, we will reduce the spread of this deadly virus and maintain our ability to keep critical services open.”
As of Wednesday, the city will close the following businesses for at least three weeks: movie theaters, indoor fitness centers and health clubs (excluding one-on-one personal training); museums and aquariums; sightseeing and other organized tours; indoor historical settings; indoor event spaces (excluding private social clubs that serve food and follow restaurant guidelines); and arcades.
The city will also close recreational facilities such as bowling alleys and rock-climbing businesses, and indoor recreation and athletic facilities generally for adults. The closures would not apply to facilities for youth ages 18 and younger, facilities used for college or professional sports, or indoor pools that follow certain guidelines.
Other activities can continue in Boston, but with limitations. Gatherings in private and public settings are required to have no more than 10 people for indoor settings and 25 people for outdoor settings. Offices will keep operating with a 40% occupancy limit, and the city will continue allowing indoor dining and limited bar seating, but with new restrictions. Indoor non-athletic classes in arts, education and life sciences for people 18 and older can continue with a 10-person limit. Production on movie, television and streaming projects can continue.
Those who want more information about Boston’s reopening process can visit boston.gov/reopening.