Charlie Baker blasts house parties as ‘recipe for disaster’ for coronavirus, says they ‘need to stop’

Gov. Charlie Baker blasted the house parties and other large gatherings that have produced coronavirus clusters across the state and reiterated his warning that if these “lapses in judgment” continue the state will “have to consider” scaling back gathering limits.

“Recently we’ve seen disturbing reports of large gatherings where people are letting down their guard, not wearing face coverings, not social distancing and giving the virus the opening it relentlessly seeks to spread,” Baker said in a press conference Friday at the State House.

“Our daily data report has been showing a slight increase in COVID cases,” Baker continued, his voice growing sharper. “These lapses in judgement, these missed opportunities to keep the door we worked so hard to close shut, are contributing to a slight but important rise in cases here in Massachusetts.”

Baker rattled off a list of “disturbing” social gatherings that have produced “troubling” coronavirus clusters now being investigated by the state, including a well-documented Chatham house party that resulted in 13 infections and an off-duty social gathering that left eight Falmouth lifeguards positive for the virus. He also listed an “unauthorized football camp” in South Weymouth, a high school graduation party in Chelmsford and a prom party in Cohasset.

“The situations I just recapped are a recipe for disaster and need to stop if we want to continue to reopen and get back to a new normal in everybody’s lives here in Massachusetts,” Baker said. And if they continue, “we’ll have to consider a number of options including reducing the gathering size back down to a smaller number.”

Outdoor gatherings are currently limited to 100 or fewer people while indoor gatherings must be limited to 25 people under the state’s coronavirus guidelines.

Baker did not specify what size gatherings might be reduced to, or what measure of cases or positivity rates would trigger a reduction. He also said there is no process to fine or sanction those associated with the clusters being “investigated” by the state.

With a concerning uptick in cases and the positive test rate creeping up to 2% after hovering around 1.7% since July 11, the Baker administration rolled out a new #MaskUpMA social media campaign Friday to encourage mask wearing in public. One of the first videos featured Boston Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster against the backdrop of an empty Fenway Park urging people to wear face coverings

“Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways we can stop the spread of #COVID19MA and help Massachusetts move in the right direction,” Baker tweeted.

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