With hospital capacity rising, Mayor Walsh announces extension of modified phase 2

BOSTON – Tuesday, January 5, 2021 – In an effort to reduce the further spread of COVID-19 after the holidays and its impact on Boston’s health care system and essential services, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the City of Boston will remain in a modified Phase Two, Step Two of the Reopening Massachusetts plan for at least three more weeks. The current state of reopening in Boston includes restrictions announced by both the City and State in mid-December and can be found on Boston.gov/reopening

“We are in one of the most serious points of the COVID-19 pandemic so far. Our case numbers are concerning and our hospital numbers continue to be higher than we’d like,” said Mayor Walsh. “Consistent with our cautious approach since the beginning of this crisis, we are extending this pause in reopening for at least another three weeks. This is not about targeting specific sectors as the cause of viral spread, but an effort to reduce overall activity happening outside people’s homes. I urge everyone to do their part so that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and eventually lift these restrictions.” 

The City of Boston had been in Step One of Phase Three of the Reopening Massachusetts plan since July 6 before returning to a modified Step Two of Phase Two on December 16, 2020. Boston has been experiencing a steady increase in COVID-19 cases among its residents since Thanksgiving, with the citywide positive test rate at 8.8 percent for the week ending on December 30, 2020, up from 6.5 percent for the prior week. The percentage of occupied adult non-surge ICU beds at Boston hospitals is at 93 percent as of January 3, 2021. 
Consistent with City and State guidance, gathering limits remain at 10 people for indoor settings and 25 people for outdoor settings for both private and public spaces. 

Read the Boston Public Health Commission’s “Order Establishing Supplemental COVID-19 Restrictions in the City of Boston.”

The following industries in the City of Boston are required to remain closed for at least three weeks (January 27, 2021):  Indoor fitness centers and health clubs, including gyms using alternative spaces. One-on-one personal training sessions are allowed.Movie theaters Museums Aquariums Indoor recreational and athletic facilities (except for youth 18 and under)This does not apply to collegiate or professional sports. Indoor pools may remain open for all ages under pre-registration format structure limited to one person per swim lane. Indoor recreational venues with potential for low-contact (batting cages, driving ranges, bowling alleys, rock-climbing) Sightseeing and other organized tours (bus tours, duck tours, harbor cruises, whale watching)Indoor historical spaces & sites Indoor event spaces (meeting rooms, ballrooms, private party rooms, social clubs)Private social clubs may continue to operate, if they serve food,  consistent with restaurant guidance.

Indoor and outdoor gaming arcades associated with gaming devices

The following industries in the City of Boston are allowed to remain open with the following restrictions in place for at least three weeks (January 27, 2021):  Indoor dining in restaurants may remain in operation with restricted bar seating. The 90 minute limit on seatings to reduce crowding and prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be strictly enforced. No member of any dining party may remain in a restaurant for more than 90 minutes in any calendar day. Ancillary activities such as pool tables, darts, trivia, etc. are prohibited. Bar seating is prohibited unless express written approval is issued by Boston’s Licensing Board, after licensees submit a Bar Seating Plan for review and approval.Indoor non-athletic instructional classes in arts, education & life sciences for persons 18 years and older may continue to operate within the 10-person capacity limit. Outdoor event spaces used for gatherings and celebrations within the 25-person capacity limit, including those in parks, reservations, and other outdoor spaces not designated in Phase Four.Outdoor theaters and outdoor performance venues may continue to operate within the 25-person capacity limit.Motion picture, television and streaming production may continue to operate. 

Per State guidance in effect since December 26, 2020, the following industries in the City of Boston are currently allowed to operate with the following restrictions in place: Office spaces may remain open at 25 percent capacity. Employers are strongly encouraged to allow employees to work from home as much as possible. Indoor dining in restaurants may remain in operation at 25 percent of seating capacity (calculated by the occupancy load as stated on a licensee’s certificate of inspection issued under the State Building Code. Workers and staff are excluded from the occupancy count.)Close contact personal services may remain open at 25 percent capacity (workers and staff are excluded from the occupancy count.)Places of worship may remain open at 25 percent capacity (workers and staff are excluded from the occupancy count.)Retail businesses may remain open at 25 percent capacity (workers and staff are excluded from the occupancy count.)Golf facilities may remain open at 25 percent capacity (for indoor spaces) As a reminder, the following State orders remain in effect to reduce the transmission of the virus:   

Temporary capacity and gathering limits: 10 persons indoors and 25 persons outdoors for both private homes and event venues and public spaces. 

Face coverings order: face masks or cloth face coverings are required in all public places, whether indoors or outdoors, even where they are able to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.  

Travel order: all visitors entering Massachusetts, including returning residents are required to:Complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival, unless visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health.Quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts. 

Stay-at-Home Advisory: residents of Massachusetts are advised to stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Boston has been steadfast in its commitment to supporting the small business community. To date, the Office of Economic Development has issued more than $13.3M in direct grants to 3,915 businesses in Boston. 

The Reopen Boston Fund, still accepting applications, can help with the expenses of safely opening and operating businesses. Of the $13.3M, nearly $6.7 million in debt-free grants have been distributed to over 1,850 small businesses in every neighborhood across the City of Boston through the Office of Economic Development’s  Small Business Relief Fund. 

Of the Funds announced last month, the City has distributed $4M to 346 businesses through commercial rent relief, supporting certified women, minority, and veteran owned small businesses, and restaurant relief. And to further assist the City’s small businesses, the City of Boston has created a list of suppliers to help businesses source the personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies required to ensure the safety of employees and customers as industries reopen. 

To better support arts organizations facing financial losses, canceled programming, and closures caused by COVID-19, the City of Boston established a $1 million Arts and Culture COVID-19 Fund, which awarded grants to 146 small and mid-sized arts and culture nonprofits to adapt their programs, spaces, and operating models. Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, the City of Boston in partnership with Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) have also awarded grants totaling over $330,000 to over 600 artists as part of the Boston Artist Relief Fund, which was established to support artists whose creative practices and incomes were adversely impacted by the pandemic.

For more information about Boston’s reopening, please visit  boston.gov/reopening.For additional questions or programs, please visit our coronavirus website or call 3-1-1, Boston’s 24-hour constituent hotline. Text BOSCOVID to 888-777 to receive text alerts on a regular basis, available in 11 languages.