August 8, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
New initiatives announced yesterday by Gov. Charlie Baker -- effective Tues., Aug. 11 -- aimed at helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, especially in higher-risk communities, will affect Hingham businesses, restaurants, and residents.
While Massachusetts has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since May, there has been a slight increase in certain communities recently.
Because of this uptick in positive cases, the next phase of the state's reopening plan -- which would have allowed more indoor activities -- has been indefinitely postponed.
Starting next week, additional reporting of town-by-town data will be published weekly on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website to show the spread of COVID-19 at a community level. Hingham officials are keeping a close eye on the numbers.
Baker's new order:
* Reduces the limit on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50 people (with the indoor gathering limit remaining at 25 people) on both public and private property;
*Requires face coverings when more than 10 people from different households gather;
* Allows restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption only if accompanied by orders for food prepared onsite. The administration will take measures to close bars "masquerading" as restaurants.
A cross-agency COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team will be responsible for ramping up enforcement statewide -- in cooperation with local intervention -- in higher-risk communities.
The Stop the Spread initiative, which provides free testing to residents in targeted communities, will be extended through September 12. There is no such testing in Hingham or other South Shore communities at this time.
Statewide enforcement and intervention will include:
* Targeted interventions and inspections by a range of agencies, with increased enforcement -- including potential fines -- to ensure businesses and residents are aware of and following COVID-19 orders.
* Fining restaurants or suspending or canceling liquor licenses when restaurants do not comply with required COVID-19 safety measures. These include social distancing, the wearing of face masks, sanitization measures, and others.
* A public messaging campaign to alert residents to higher-risk COVID-19 communities.
* Potential restrictions or shutdowns of parks, playgrounds, businesses, or other locations believed to be contributing to the COVID-19 spread in higher-risk COVID-19 communities.
* Additional resources for public health support such as testing, contact tracing, and quarantining.
For more information visit https://www.hingham-ma.gov/civicalerts.aspx?AID=849 and Mass.gov/Reopening for more details.