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Boston, other cities order health clubs, museums, sightseeing tours shut for three weeks; restaurants still allowed to offer limited indoor seating

With Covid-19 numbers continuing to rise, Mayor Walsh said today he's rolling the city back to an earlier time in the pandemic and ordering that a variety of indoor facilities and outdoor tours be shut for three weeks starting Wednesday.

The restaurants that have yet to go into hibernation can keep their current dining rooms open subject to the same current restrictions on masks, distancing and seating - and provided no patrons spends more than 90 minutes. Restaurants that want to let patrons sit at the bar will need to seek permission from the Boston Licensing Board.

Arlington, Brockton, Lynn, Newton, Somerville and Winthrop announced a similar rollback today as well.

In a statement, Walsh said:

Unfortunately, we are at the point where we need to take stronger action to control COVID-19 in Boston, and urgently, to ensure our health care workers have the capacity to care for everyone in need. We are hopeful that by reducing opportunities for transmission throughout the region, we will reduce the spread of this deadly virus and maintain our ability to keep critical services open. We continue to urge everyone to take personal responsibility and follow the public health guidelines while visiting any public space or business, and employers to allow their employees to work from home as much as possible. Together, we will be able to get this virus under control, save lives, and ultimately come back stronger.

Ordered shut starting Wednesday: Indoor fitness centers and health clubs, other indoor recreational and athletic facilities aimed at adults, movie theaters, museums, the Aquarium, sightseeing and harbor tours, indoor historical sites and event spaces such as meeting rooms and video arcades.

Still allowed open, but only up to 40% capacity: Offices. Walsh said he encourages employers to let workers work at home whenever possible.

Also:

  • 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.
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Comments

Surely the museums and aquarium are much lower-risk activities? This is unfair to people who have already bought specified-day tickets to the museums.

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Voting closed 67

Last week's report showed 105 confirmed cases tied to restaurants from 11/08 - 12/05. Recreation/Cultural got a whopping 17.

Household? 31,921.

You couldn't pay me to eat in a restaurant right now (and I used to be, so not an idle boast) but the data strongly suggests that either (a) there's little scientific basis for what we're doing, or (b) we have no clue what's actually going on and this whole thing is a giant dice game until we have enough vaccine for us middle-aged non-essential mopes.

YMMV.

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Voting closed 45

There’s a huge problem with comparing those numbers, though. Contact tracing is enormously easier for household contacts than restaurants. I know the name and phone number of everyone who comes in my house. The other people in a restaurant, not so much.
Might as well have a study reporting that 90% of missing keys are found under lampposts.

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Voting closed 19

"Cases tied to restaurants" vs. "cases tied to the re-opening of restaurants" is a very important distinction. There don't seem to be a large number of case clusters tied back to specific restaurants, and while there have been a few, restaurants don't seem to be a major source of super-spreading events.

The problem is that clusters and super-spreading aren't the whole story, and the vast majority of cases these days are due to community spread. The Biogen conference infected 100 people in a cluster, but tens of thousands of people all over the world through additional community spread. Many of those people may have gotten sick anyway, but many would not.

Anybody who goes to a restaurant with somebody they wouldn't ordinarily be spending close time with, or for longer than they otherwise would, is providing the virus more opportunity for community spread. If COVID-positive, asymptomatic Bob meets up with Jenny at a restaurant and Jenny ends up infected, it doesn't matter whether the transfer literally happened within the physical confines of the restaurant. Maybe she caught it when they greeted each other outside, or on the walk over or back to the car. Maybe Jenny was the only person who caught COVID that day, her case isn't part of a cluster, and nobody ever figures out where exactly she got it. But the fact remains: without the trip to the restaurant, Jenny wouldn't have gotten sick, because she wouldn't have been exposed to Bob.

It's true that some segment of social activity currently driven by restaurants would happen even if restaurants were closed. Some people would just move the activity to their homes where it's probably even riskier. A large portion of such activity, though, probably would simply not happen. This is the reasoning behind placing restrictions on locations and activities that are not tied directly to outbreaks, but are tied to behaviors associated with community spread.

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Voting closed 14

Have the penguins been wearing masks?

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I am devastated that the great museums of Lynn, will have to close, it's the end of civilization.

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That sightseeing tours of Somerville will be suspended.

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Instead of the usual trolley tour, Somerville published a map of holiday lights so you can do your own self-guided tour by foot, bicycle, or car:

https://somervilleartscouncil.org/illuminationstour

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Voting closed 14

I'm sure the museums will refund you, just call and ask.

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Voting closed 14

I know this is a tough decision due to potential ramifications, but I'm not seeing the logic here. In-restaurant dining is still allowed, which lets people sit at tables, mask-less, for up to 90 minutes, but other activities that can require masks (or are outdoors!) are no longer allowed?

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Voting closed 94

Hopefully the obvious and unavoidable illogic there will lead to state-level assistance for restaurant workers and owners, so they can then be closed a well like we all pretty much know they should be.

Of course, it's not fair that gym workers/owners are SOL with no assistance because they're not a well-organized group with lots of support from the public, but I guess them's the breaks. We should really be paying everybody to stay home, gym, restaurant, or otherwise; we can afford it and it's not forever.

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Voting closed 39

The Federal government could afford it. Im not sure the state could afford it given we are going to run through the rainy day fund in the next two budgets.

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Voting closed 19

If we didn't send money to like 40 other states.

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Voting closed 21

If we didn't send money to like 40 other states.

Stop playing stupid. You know perfectly well that the money "we" send is in the form of federal taxes, and that the individuals who are sending them have no choice but to do so or face severe consequences from which the state cannot shield them. "We" have indeed sent the money, it's in the federal coffers, and WE have every right to expect that it be used for appropriate relief for businesses and individuals. YOU, on the other hand, would rather make feeble jabs at an easier target, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which does not have the money. Now of all times we need people to be smart, so stop being so deliberately, irresponsibly stupid.

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Not the state.

I could be wrong.

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We all get it, Pete, we've all heard about how we're a donor state and all that. It's still a stupid snipe in the current situation. The state and the cities are regulating because the feds won't. The feds could provide relief to businesses and individuals, but they won't. If we didn't send our tax money to the feds, it still wouldn't help us. What we need is a national response.

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Voting closed 15

Sure it would. We'd keep the money we made ourselves to help our neighbors instead of paying for Ben Carson's office decor and bailouts for Tom Brady.

The United States just needs to be done already. I'm not interested in sharing a country with 70 million people who rewarded Donald Trump with a vote in 2020.

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Voting closed 16

Sure it would. We'd keep the money we made ourselves to help our neighbors instead of paying for Ben Carson's office decor and bailouts for Tom Brady.

The notion that if people got to keep all of "their money", they'd create public services and a social safety net out of pure altruism, is a self-serving libertarian fiction that has never gotten within sniffing distance of reality.

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Voting closed 17

I'm not interested in sharing a country with 70 million people who rewarded Donald Trump with a vote in 2020.

Feel free to take off to any other country that will have you. May I suggest Somalia? They've got a great low level of governmental control that should be perfect for a Libertarian like you.

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Voting closed 17

"You should just quit instead of fighting."

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Is that what you call it when you spend all day commenting on local blogs about how everyone else is an idiot?

Also - you're literally arguing that Massachusetts should stop paying federal taxes - I'm not sure how you think that's going to happen unless we leave the Union here, which feels just a bit like quitting to me.

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So Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut get to call us quitters. We’d be dismissing everyone else.

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Voting closed 13

Will gives out this Jim Rome quote over and over:

"When the going gets tough...quit."

"If at first you don't succeed...quit."

"When life hands you lemons...quit."

"If you can't stand the heat...quit."

So, which is it?

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Is a stupid snipe always given that is what MA voters typically want out of their national candidates: the wealthy paying for the poor and elderly. You can't have it both ways.

As for the restrictions… seems like more policy flailing as has been the norm most of the year. Just like school closings, which are similarly not tied to outbreaks and may as well be a war on the poor.

Indoor dining is where people don't have masks on, unlike capacity-limited museums or the generally safe outdoor activity where transmission is pretty much nonexistent. Getting the ~4 meals I did outdoors this summer felt like a sanity lifeline.

There's a cost to removing all outlets for people to be a little normal, and it is tiring that all the loud online shut ins just think there aren't a bunch of other downsides for people's health and wellbeing unrelated but just as important to COVID.

We can do better.

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Voting closed 13

We could afford it if it only lasted 3 weeks. Which would only work if the whole country did it at the same time, and people obeyed it and stayed home.

Or we could keep screwing around with half measures like we've been doing for the last 9 months, which is how we got to the current situation.

We need a total shutdown. NOW.

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Voting closed 13

People in restaurants are required (by Gov. Baker's order to return to Phase 3 Step 1) to wear their masks at all times inside the restaurant, except when they are actually putting food or drink in their mouths. There's no sitting with the mask off; you're supposed to move the mask long enough to put something in your mouth, and then put the mask back in place while you chew and swallow.

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What people who eat in restaurants are going to pay any attention to that?

Who even knows that you're supposed to do that? Was this publicized at all?

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If this is the requirement, it is not being enforced. Walk by any cafe and take a glimpse inside. Plenty of lingering over conversation or laptops, with no mask in sight.

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Voting closed 35

No one is forcing you to go to a restaurant

Also, closing restaurants for indoor dining only takes away more jobs for people who will have little if any aid coming to them...

I'd like to see a restaurant worker who needs their paycheck to eat say "please close indoor dining"

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Voting closed 30

You're kidding yourself if you think any restaurant without a strong takeout service is doing anything besides hemorrhaging money right now. And that's not due to politics, it's because nobody with an ounce of good sense is going to eat in while covid is running rampant in the community.

Stronger measures and actually containing the virus would have helped them. Instead, we get a huge collective shrug. Businesses are failing anyway, AND people are getting sick. Disease, AND deprivation, all because of weak half measures against the spread of this virus. It could have been over in six weeks.

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Voting closed 17

Nobody is forcing me to go to a restaurant.

And nobody is forcing me to go to the supermarket or ride the subway where I'll be exposed to contagion from people who chose to go to restaurants and thereby caught COVID-19

Just like nobody's forcing me to drive on the roads or walk in the crosswalk where I'll be exposed to risk from people who chose to drive drunk.

So I guess I should just sit down and shut up about people eating in restaurants or driving drunk, eh?

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Voting closed 40

If they aren't going to a restaurant, they're going to a private gathering in someone else's home where there's no chance anyone can monitor what they're doing. So-called pandemic restrictions in the United States are theater since as soon as they actually enforce things like stopping people from going out after curfew or stopping gatherings in private homes Americans will scream fascism.

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There are these things called Blue Bikes... which you can rent! Look into it.

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There is this thing called winter. It's in the teens right now. Look into it.

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The MBTA is immune from maskless littering slobs.

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In door eating at restaurants and sitting maskless on laptops at caffe nero?

It's pretty clear that is a serious oversight.

There is growing scientific evidence that
airborne transmission of COVID-19, which occurs when infectious aerosol droplets are exchanged by breathing shared indoor air.

https://indoor-covid-safety.herokuapp.com

Can we just eat take-out?

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Voting closed 45

With these steps we'll definately see a drop in positive cases in the hotspot Boston neighborhoods of East Boston, Dorchester, and Mattapan.

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It's almost as if those people working in those restaurants serving your COVID-filled piehole have to live somewhere...

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Voting closed 31

We should not have indoor dining at all right now. It is certainly more risky than exercising at the gym with a mask on or walking around a museum with a mask on. This is ludicrous.

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Voting closed 63

The gym I go to has moved most of its equipment out into its indoor basketball court and spaced the machines by at least 15 feet, making extra distancing more or less the default, and I usually only go during slow times, so if I'm within 75 feet of anyone, that's close. Now, I know that this isn't possible for most fitness centers, and I would not be comfortable going to most places (and I have even avoided the smaller rooms at SEFC, despite the well spaced machinery and limits of four people per ~600 sf room), but this one is owned and operated by the BPHC, so they have to set a good example. If that means shutting down again for a few weeks, I guess I'll have to resume my 6-8 mile daily walks and break out the stationary bicycle stand so I can bike in my living room (while watching TV, of course)... At the same time, and as much as I hate to say it, indoor dining needs to either end or be seriously curtailed. Still air in smallish rooms is the risk, I don't see how most restaurants can avoid that.

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Voting closed 20

Adam, I know you're an optimistic kind of guy but the press release actually says, "at least" three weeks.

Three weeks or less? Your bookie won't even take those odds, people.

"The following industries in the City of Boston are required to close starting Wednesday, December 16 for at least three weeks."

https://content.boston.gov/news/mayor-walsh-announces-boston-temporarily...

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Adam, thank you for posting the entire list of cities and towns that announced restrictions today, instead of the Globe's tack of "including Brockton, Somerville and Newton." Why you would report a story like this and think that there is a good reason to omit Arlington, Lynn and Winthrop behind the word "including" is beyond me. That's like 150,000 people!! Identifying them only takes up two extra words!!

Anyway, everybody remember to support your local Gaffin this holiday season.

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Voting closed 36

The article I read on wcvb didn't even say the date this goes into effect. Fortunately I came here and Adam was on it. Most Boston News sites seem to really phone it in these days. Most of them are syndicated CNN links and worse, click bait sponsored content posing as new stories. Keep up the good work Adam.

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The Globe, being a print news source, does put a premium on space with their articles, as there is only a certain amount of space on a printed page.

If a television report did that, I would note the issue of time. Spending an additional minute or two is more important than you’d think.

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maybe the Globe will change it for season two... here on Gilligan's Island.

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Are CrossFits sports clubs or houses of worship?

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Seems to me like the blowback is building to these lockdown measures. The people don’t want it anymore.

Blowback is the intended consequences to one’s actions.

Looking forward to see where this leads...

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As well as every time some mayor or local politician is caught flouting their own rules just undermines the seriousness for everyone.

By and large, this whole pandemic has been a huge information failure.

People weren't given good information from most levels of government, the rules are often extremely arbitrary, and the toll of indefinite lockdowns on people's wellbeing is given no cost at all.

Shocker that people can only take so much of that.

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