Beginning Monday, Jan. 25, businesses will no longer need to close at 9:30 p.m. in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday.
The curfew, as well as a stay-at-home advisory, was put in place in early November to help slow the second coronavirus surge in the state. While restaurants, health clubs, casinos, movie theaters and other businesses will be able to stay open later next week, they will still not be allowed to exceed a 25% capacity. The cap will remain in place for at least two more weeks.
"Vaccines are reaching residents, positive case rates and hospitalizations have stabilized; those trends are moving in the right direction," Baker said. "As a result, we believe it's OK and it's time to start a gradual easing of some of the restrictions we put in place in the fall."
The state has seen a second surge of coronavirus beginning in the fall, and accelerating during Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays. Baker said he had put these restrictions in place to slow the spread during the holiday season, but that data is showing improvement in the state.
Baker cited a number of trends, namely, that hospitalizations are down 10% and the seven-day positivity average is down 30% since earlier in January.
However, based on the data from the state report, it's worth noting that hospitalizations have leveled off since that 10% drop. Daily case reports during the post-holidays period were dramatically higher than the spring peak. And the current seven-day average of new cases is still more than the worst day in the first surge, recorded on April 17. Back then, stricter restrictions on businesses deemed nonessential were in place. The state did not begin the first phase of its economic reopening until late May.
Baker acknowledged that the new, more contagious coronavirus variant is in Massachusetts but did not address how that impacted his reopening announcement.
"The best way to deal with that variant is to do exactly the same things we've been asking people to do," Baker said. "And people, for the most part, have been doing for months, which is, you know, we're face covering, maintain your distance, don't go to a lot of informal gatherings."
Though the state is loosening some of its restrictions, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said on Friday that Boston would remain at its modified phase two, step two through at least Jan. 27. That means businesses allowed to be open will be able to stay open later, but that businesses currently closed — like gyms, museums and movie theaters — are still to remain closed.
This article was originally published on January 21, 2021.