COVID-19 Weekly Roundup: Eleventh Installment
Although Massachusetts is still considered a low-risk state, coronavirus cases are steadily on the rise. Due to eased restrictions and lack of enforcement, some of the population has begun to engage in unsafe practices. As a result, the Baker–Polito Administration has not only tightened some of the restrictions on traveling and gatherings last week, but they also announced new initiatives to more effectively enforce COVID-19 rules and combat high-risk violations. Read further to discover the changes to Massachusetts’ COVID-19 regulations and how they affect your business.
Changes Made to COVID-19 Restaurant Rules to Close Loophole
Some Massachusetts bars and breweries underwent a rebranding during the pandemic, reopening their doors under the guise of pretzel or popcorn eateries while serving booze on the side. This loophole has allowed these establishments to open despite the state’s delayed reopening of bars, as a restaurant is defined as an establishment that offers seated food service that’s prepared on-site and under a retail food permit.
To combat this, alterations have been made to Massachusetts’ Safety Standards and Checklist for Restaurants. Taking effect Tuesday, August 11th, pretzels, potato chips, and other pre-packaged or manufactured foods are not considered foods prepared on-site. Police and other law enforcement have been permitted to issue fines to businesses found in violation.
Governor Baker Tightens Restrictions on Outdoor Gatherings and Pauses Reopening
Governor Baker has increased the restrictions of outdoor gatherings on both public and private properties. While the limit on indoor gatherings remains at 25 people, the limit of outdoor gatherings is being reduced from 100 to 50. Furthermore, masks must be worn for any gathering of ten or more consisting of people belonging to separate households. These tighter restrictions were announced alongside an indefinite delay on step two of Phase 3.
Baker–Polito Administration Announces COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team
Governor Baker announced a cross-agency taskforce entitled the COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team, who is responsible for the enforcement of COVID-19 regulations in high-risk communities. This team will coordinate local intervention efforts to curtail unsafe COVID-19 practices in the community. The team consists of nine state agencies, some of which include the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Public Health, and the Massachusetts State Police. You can find out more by visiting Mass.gov’s new initiatives page.
Rhode Island Added to Massachusetts’ Quarantine List
In a travel order update effective on Friday, August 7th, Rhode Island is no longer deemed a lower-risk state. Travelers from Rhode Island who do not meet the exemptions listed on Mass.gov Guidance for Travelers must abide by the restrictions imposed upon high-risk states, including filling out a Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantining for 14 days or obtaining a negative COVID-19 test result up to 72 hours before arrival. Failure to follow these instructions will result in a $500 fine for each day found in violation, as mentioned in our previous installment.
These changes to Massachusetts’ COVID-19 regulations will have an impact on local businesses, both due to the new Rhode Island travel restrictions and the decrease of gatherings permitted outdoors. It’s important to consider pivot strategies during this new business reality. These new changes serve as further proof of the longevity and devastating impact of this pandemic, so it’s crucial to learn how to conduct business during COVID-19. If you’d like some assistance during this difficult time, please contact us at Vision Advertising.