With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced a new stay-at-home advisory and mask order along with curfews for most retail businesses.
Baker said the new restrictions, which go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, are "targeted interventions" aimed at blunting another surge in the coronavirus outbreak that has seen more than 1,000 new infections daily for the past week.
"The data suggests that if we don't ramp up the fight to disrupt rising trends, we will have a serious problem on our hands in the not-so-distant future," Baker told reporters at a Monday briefing.
Baker stressed that the state's healthcare system is prepared for another surge in COVID-19 infections and has field hospitals ready to be set up in the event that hospitals are overwhelmed.
"What we should not do is shut down the economy and schools to deal with this," he said. "Schools are not spreaders, here or anywhere else."
Under the new stay-at-home advisory, residents are urged to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., except for work or to buy food or other essential items.
Liquor stores and marijuana shops, as well as gyms, fitness centers, museums and entertainment venues such as casinos and theaters, will be required to close at 9:30 p.m., under Baker's new orders. Restaurants must stop providing table service at 9:30 p.m., but they will be allowed to offer carry-out and delivery after that.
Businesses that break the rules face fines of up to $500 per violation.
The new, more stringent mask mandate will require anyone over the age of 5 to wear a face covering in public, indoors or outdoors, and regardless of their ability to maintain a recommended distance of 6 feet. Violators faces fines of up to $300.
"We're making this clear, for everyone," he said. "No more exceptions and no more exemptions for when you can maintain social distancing."
The limit on indoor gatherings will be reduced from 25 to 10 people and outdoor gatherings from 50 to 25 people, Baker said.
"The simple truth is this — too many of us have become complacent in our daily lives," Baker said. "We're doing much better than many other states and many other countries, but here too, we've let down our guard and have work to do.”
On Sunday, the state reported 1,139 new COVID-19 cases from 16,724 individuals tested, according to the Department of Public Health. Overall, the state has reported about 155,660 cases and more than 9,788 and deaths.
As of last Thursday, 121 communities — including North Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, Beverly, Danvers and Gloucester — were classified as "high risk" for the spread of COVID-19.
Some business leaders criticized the governor's move to set curfews and additional restrictions, saying it unfairly punishes already struggling businesses for rising infection rates and will slow the state's overall economic recovery.
"Instead of penalizing businesses playing by the rules that are already experiencing a drop in customers and sales, the state should attempt to take a more targeted approach to curb the spread of the virus," said Chris Carlozzi, state president of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. "Rollbacks like this could permanently damage an already fragile economy and hinder the state’s recovery."
Baker said the state is trying to keep schools open and avoid reverting back to a more restrictive reopening phase, but said it will require "real sacrifices."
"It's time once again for us all to do our jobs," he said. "The game here is the same: It's to bend the trend.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org