Gov. Charlie Baker officially rolled back the state’s reopening plan on Tuesday, requiring all communities to revert to tighter gathering restrictions and capacity limits at a wide swathe of businesses as coronavirus cases continue to jolt upward across the state.
Meanwhile, Martha’s Vineyard reported 13 new coronavirus cases of its own on Tuesday, bringing the weekly total to 29 new cases since Friday.
At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Governor Baker announced that the entire state would move back to phase three, step one of the state’s reopening plan, which requires shuttering indoor performance venues and arcades and institutes a 40 per cent capacity limit on virtually every indoor business in the state. It also halves gathering limits from 100 to 50 people outdoors and 50 to 25 people indoors.
Restaurants will be required to seat no more than six diners to a table and limit meals to 90 minutes.
The order is effective starting Sunday, Dec. 13.
Although two Island towns — Tisbury and Edgartown — had already been forced to roll back the reopening process due to their designation as high risk communities for Covid-19 spread, the new rules will now apply to the entire Island and state, marking the first time that the governor’s slow reopening process has shifted backwards.
“The days of most people doing the right thing are probably not enough,” the governor said at his press briefing. “We cannot simply wait for the vaccine to get here . . . With our hospital system straining to keep up with the sharp increase in severely ill patients, we have to do more.”
At the briefing, the governor said that the roll back was focused on three main goals: preventing viral spread, limiting time spent outside households and reducing mobility.
Lieut. Gov. Karyn Polito said the new guidelines would also require employees in office spaces to wear masks at all times unless they were in their own, separate room, and that music would be banned from restaurants as well.
On Island, health officials reported 13 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, according to a daily case update, 10 from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and three from TestMV. The hospital is testing symptomatic patients and their close contacts for the virus, while TestMV is focused on asymptomatic patients.
The Island has now reported 363 laboratory confirmed tests since the pandemic began, with more than three-quarters coming since the start of November. TestMV has more than 1,300 pending tests according to the update, while the hospital has 22.
Hospital officials confirmed that although no one is currently hospitalized with the virus as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, two staff members at the Windemere nursing facility have tested positive in recent days. No residents of the facility have tested positive yet, but comprehensive testing is still ongoing, officials said.
Statewide, the Department of Public Health reported 3,627 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, slightly less than highs reported over the weekend and last week. But there are now more than 1,500 people hospitalized with the virus — a number that has been steadily climbing since October and is at its highest level since May. The state DPH also reported 310 patients in intensive care units.
Forty additional patients died from the virus across the state Tuesday, bringing the total to 10,833 since the pandemic began.