Baker pauses reopening amid COVID-19 uptick

(AP File Photo) Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday he will pause the state's reopening plan and step up enforcement of limits meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

BOSTON -- Gov. Charlie Baker is indefinitely postponing the next step of the state's reopening in response to the uptick in COVID-19 cases that Massachusetts has seen in recent weeks.

The governor said the second step of Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan will be put on hold, and the outdoor gathering limit will decrease from 100 to 50, effective Tuesday.

Baker said he will authorize all state and local police to enforce the orders, and that people who host events that exceed gathering limits -- even on private property -- will be subject to fines.

Amid reports of large parties and unauthorized gatherings, Baker said "some residents feel a bit too relaxed about the seriousness of this virus."

He also announced the creation of a COVID-19 Enforcement and Intervention Team that will ramp up enforcement efforts and coordinate intervention efforts in yet-to-be-named high-risk communities.

"We have to work hard, always, harder in some respects than ever, to contain COVID-19 and keep our economy open for business," Baker said. "We also want to keep this virus out of our communities as we head into the fall so we can give our kids a chance to get back to school."

Movie theaters, gyms, casinos, museums and more were allowed to reopen in early July as part of Phase 3. The Baker administration referred to it as "Step One of Phase III" but did not fully detail what would be included in the second step.

The state's reopening website lists indoor theater or concert hall performances, laser tag, roller skating, trampoline facilities and obstacle courses as the activities that would be allowed to reopen in step two of Phase 3.

Baker said the gathering limit for any outdoor event will be reduced to 50 as of Tuesday, but the limit on indoor gatherings will remain at 25. He said the limits apply to all types of locations on public or private property.

He also said he was updating restaurant guidance to make clear that alcohol may only be served for on-site consumption if it is accompanied by food prepared on-site.

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