Gov. Baker announces new COVID restrictions, including curfew; town health director optimistic

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a slew of new restrictions Monday designed to control the current surge of COVID-19 cases, including a 10 p.m. curfew and a reduction in the number of people who are allowed at private gatherings. The restrictions are set to take effect Friday.

The curfew — technically a stay-at-home advisory from the Department of Public Health – urges residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for necessary activities such as work and school. Restaurant table service is to end by 9:30 p.m. in order to comply, and other stores/facilities are to close at 9:30 as well, although supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and retail stores are allowed to stay open later.

The private gathering limits are being reduced to 10 for indoor settings (down from 25) and 25 outside (down from 50).

For further details on the new restrictions, check the town’s COVID-19 update here.

Baker said he did not plan to shut down schools. Calling the virus a “relentless, invisible enemy,” he added that individuals are expected to wear a mask anytime they are in public, even if they are 6 feet away from anyone else.

The state’s COVID numbers have been surging — there have been more than 1,000 new infections for each of the previous nine days. Hopkinton, with 14 active cases, has moved into the yellow category on the state’s COVID-19 status map (the categories range from no color to green to yellow to red, which would mean further restrictions). Health director Shaun McAuliffe said a surge was expected due to the time of year.

“If this were a non-COVID year we’d expect to see an increase in cold, flu and other respiratory diseases as we get into the winter months. So we knew it was coming,” he said during an appearance on HCAM’s Hopkinton Hangout Hour. “The start of the winter months is the start of the cold and flu season. And now when you add COVID in, and the way COVID spreads, you had to believe that we were going to see an uptick in cases. And that’s what we’re seeing.”

That said, McAuliffe said the town continues to do a good job of keeping the situation under control.

“Because we’ve done such a good job in Hopkinton really since day one, to date we haven’t seen any evidence of community spread or any spread in the schools. We’re doing well there,” he said. “But residents are going off to work, coming in contact with someone who’s ill, and bringing it home. They might be spreading it to a family member in the household and it’s staying there. We’ve seen the majority of our cases coming in that way. Some of those instances have caused minor disruptions in school. Then we’ve had the athletic-related illnesses that caused more or less four or five issues at the schools. But again, those were one-off — someone contracted an illness from someone they were exposed to on their sports team, they didn’t spread it at home, and there was no spread in the school.”

McAuliffe said a quick response, thorough contact tracing and responsible behavior have helped avoid a spread. He noted that more than 100 individuals who were identified as close contacts to COVID-positive individuals in school were notified, held out of school and told to get tested, and none of them tested positive.

“That’s a tribute to the fact that the face covering wearing, the distancing, the general attention to hygiene, and staying home when you’re sick works,” he said. “Even though we’re not at full capacity at school there’s still a lot of contact and it’s working. So if we can just take what we’re practicing in the school setting and apply it to home, I think we’re going to be a lot better off. And I firmly believe that we should be able to move from this yellow risk rating down to the green over the next two weeks.”

Added McAuliffe: “I don’t know that we’ll go back to the unshaded metric, but I firmly believe that we can get back and sustain Hopkinton in the green.”

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