Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday announced that the state’s reopening plan will be postponed indefinitely due to rising coronavirus cases in communities across Massachusetts and said that COVID-19 “Enforcement and Intervention Team” will start cracking down on behavior that puts the public at risk.
“We have to work hard, always. Harder in some respects than ever to contain COVID-19 and keep our economy open for business,” Baker said during a news conference at the State House. “We also want to keep this virus out of our communities as we head into the fall so we can give our kids a chance to get back to school.”
After analyzing public health data, which has shown an increase in new positive coronavirus tests, Baker said his administration decided that it was time to implement a new set of initiatives aimed at stopping the spread of the disease, especially in higher-risk communities that have seen a recent uptick in cases.
The governor said the new initiatives include stricter statewide rules for public and private gatherings and targeted community guidance.
An order signed by Baker will reduce the limit on outdoor gatherings on both public and private property from 100 to 50 people. It is slated to take effect on Tuesday, Aug. 11. The indoor gatherings limit will remain at 25 people.
The decision to cut outdoor gathering sizes by 50 percent comes after 300 people reportedly attended a recent wedding at a hotel in Gardner.
Face coverings will also be required where more than 10 people from different households will be mixing.
Step two of Phase 3 of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan has been postponed indefinitely, Baker said.
Restaurant rules have also been updated. Alcoholic beverages may now only be served for on-site consumption if accompanied by food orders prepared on-site. Baker said his administration will be taking measures to ensure that “bars masquerading as restaurants” will be closed.
Baker also announced the formation of a COVID-19 Enforcement and Intervention Team.
Public safety officials, including state and local law enforcement, now have the jurisdiction to enforce safety orders and crackdown on events hosted in violation of the orders.
Those who fail to comply with the orders will subject to fines or cease and desist orders, according to Baker.