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 being investigated by the state that have produced “troubling” coronavirus clusters, in which two or more unrelated people test positive for the virus.

There’s the well-documented Chatham house party that infected 13 people, an off-duty social gathering after which eight Falmouth lifeguards tested positive, an “unauthorized football camp” in South Weymouth that officials say included kids from 17 communities, a high school graduation party in Chelmsford, a Wrentham house party, a prom party in Cohasset, a private boat party on Boston Harbor and the more than 30-person outbreak at Baystate Medical Center.

“The situations I just recapped are a recipe for disaster and need to stop if we want to continue to reopen,” Baker said. If they continue, “we’ll have to consider a number of options including reducing the gathering size back down to a smaller number.”

State guidelines limit outdoor gatherings to fewer than 100 people and indoor gatherings to under 25. Local boards of health can fine people who violate those restrictions, though several say they don’t have the manpower.

With the positive test rate creeping up to 2% this week after hovering around 1.7% since July 11, Baker rolled out a new #MaskUpMA social media campaign to encourage wearing face coverings in public. One of the first videos featured a masked-up Wally the Green Monster in an empty Fenway Park.

“If we want to prevent clusters from popping up in the future, we need to ensure that everyone continues to do their part by wearing masks,” Baker said.

The new push comes as stricter travel rules go into effect Saturday that require travelers and Massachusetts residents to fill out a travel form and quarantine for 14 days unless they’re coming from a low-risk state or can produce a negative test result — and include fines of $500 per day for violators.

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