Baker Extends Gathering and Capacity Restrictions

HYANNIS – Governor Charlie Baker is extending gathering restrictions and issuing some new hospital guidance in order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. 

The update comes as case numbers, hospitalizations and fatalities due to the virus continue to climb across the state. 

“As we continue to see a strain on our healthcare system and respond to the holiday spike, we’re announcing capacity and gathering limit restrictions will be in place for at least another two weeks,” said Baker.

Current industry limits on capacity and reduced gathering limits that went into effect on Saturday, December 26 will be extended to January 24. 

Originally, they were set to expire on January 10. 

The restrictions call for gatherings to not exceed 10 people when indoors or 25 people when outdoors, and subjects most industries in the state to a 25 percent capacity limit. 

“Over the next two weeks, we’ll continue to look at and evaluate the data to make further decisions,” said Baker.

The full list of industries affected can be found on the website.

The state has also made a number of relief programs available to small businesses hit hardest by the ongoing pandemic, including the Sector-Specific Relief Grant Program open until January 15.

Baker said that the extensions are to help reduce the pressure on healthcare systems and workers, and added that the past six weeks saw statewide hospitalizations grow by 145 percent, with hospitals 84 percent occupied.

Baker also announced new hospital guidance to help deal with increased demands on the system.

The state uses a regional tier system established in early November to support continued collaboration and sustain capacity. 

Since December, all regions were in Tier 3 status which establishes a framework for greater coordination to balance patient load, but Baker’s new guidance has raised them to Tier 4. 

The state said that in Tier 4, hospitals in each region will meet at least daily on top of continuing to collaborate and load balance across regions where necessary. 

Baker also announced that hospitals with certain capacity restraints can request a temporary exemption to mandated ICU nurse staffing ratios.

“We remain committed to supporting our world-class healthcare system and our incredible healthcare workers. We believe that these steps among others are crucial to ensuring they can continue to provide the care for all the patients who need it,” said Baker.

As vaccine distribution continues amid a rising surge of COVID-19 cases, Baker urged residents to continue to follow state safety guidelines, including wearing masks and socially distancing.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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