With COVID-19 cases rising, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered new restrictions.
State residents are urged to stay-at-home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., public-facing businesses including restaurants, liquor stores, and movie theaters must close by 9:30 p.m., indoor gatherings can have no more than 10 people, and face-coverings are to be worn at all times in public regardless of distance.
" Our message here is very simple: We can't afford to continue to do what we have been doing," said Baker.
Baker said the new restrictions are intended to slow the spread of the virus before hospitals become overwhelmed.
By issuing these new rules now, Baker said he hopes to avoid a broader rollback of the state’s reopening process.
" We're not saying 'don't go to work', we're saying just the opposite. People can continue to work as long as they play by the rules and follow the guidence," said Baker. He said the same applied to schools which he said should stay open.
He said the goal is to discourage private social gatherings in households that have been blamed for the surge in cases this fall.
He said people need to postpone or rethink indoor gatherings like birthday parties and baby showers and watching football games with neighborhoods.
" These are places were COVID spreads; unregulated gatherings even if they are small where people let down their guard," said Baker.
The new restrictions take effect Friday November 6th.
At western Massachusetts hospitals, COVID-19 cases have been rising at a concerning rate. On Monday, there were 38 COVID-19 patients in the Baystate Health network of hospitals. At one time over the weekend the number of patients exceeded 40.
The hospitals still have the capacity to deal with this second surge, so far, said Baystate Health president and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack.
At Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, which went days this summer with no COVID-19 patients, there were 13 on Monday.
Dr. Robert Roose, the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, said the vast majority of people with the virus are picking it up at someone’s household.
" What has become clear as we look at the data is the battle against this pandemic really does start at home with our personal decisions and responsibility and it will be won at home," said Roose.
Springfield had 867 confirmed COVID-19 cases in October, an increase of more than 500 from September and the highest monthly total since May.
Through contact tracing, household and neighborhood clusters have been identified. Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said community outreach will be the strategy for reducing the spread.
"We are seeking an uptick, so it is not going down and we have to get more agressive in our information campaign," said Caulton-Harris.
Speaking about an hour before Gov Baker announced the new restrictions, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he hoped a new round of lockdowns would not been needed.
" I want to balance public health, but also keeping livelihoods and jobs going," said Sarno.
Sarno urged people to get tested. As part of the state’s “Stop the Spread” initiative free testing is available in Springfield to any Massachusetts resident. A drive-through testing site is open daily in the parking lot of the Eastfield shopping mall.