BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Charlie Baker is urging those attending services at houses of worship to adhere to COVID-19 precautions, like wearing masks and practicing social distancing particularly for indoor services.
The state is still seeing too many COVID-19 clusters that can be traced back to houses of worship, the Republican said at a Tuesday press conference. Since the start of the pandemic, houses of workshop have experienced a total of 36 clusters, Baker said.
“We know that houses of worship have always served as a place of refuge especially in difficult times like this,” Baker said at a press conference. “But as with all gatherings, protocols have been put in place to ensure that services and other functions that happen in houses of worship happen as safely as possible.”
Baker said many of the state’s faith leaders have stepped up by moving services online or holding them outside if possible.
“It’s critically important that if you do attend an in-person service please do wear a mask,” he said. “Keep your distance.”
Bakers comments come after the Supreme Court last week barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus.
Baker said the issue with the New York case was the decision to have one standard for formal gatherings generally and a separate standard for religious institutions.
Massachusetts doesn’t run afoul of the court ruling because the state for the most part is applying the same rules about distancing and capacity to all gathering places, Baker said.
SMALL BUSINESS WOES
The number of open small businesses in Massachusetts has dropped by 37% this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, while small business revenue is down 44% since the start of the year, according to Harvard researchers.
“Massachusetts is seeing the same sort of national pattern with the economic crisis hitting smaller businesses particularly hard,” Sebi Devlin-Foltz, of Harvard-based Opportunity Insights, told the Boston Herald on Monday.
People are staying home and spending money on online retailers, Devlin-Foltz said.
The state’s hospitality sector, including restaurants, has been particularly hard hit, according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit Opportunity Insights.
The number of open small businesses in leisure/hospitality has dropped 55%, while revenue has plummeted 64%.
Reduced capacities and limited hours are in large part to blame, said National Federation of Independent Business Massachusetts State Director Christopher Carlozzi.
In other coronavirus news from Massachusetts:
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts increased by 30 on Tuesday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by more than 2,800.
The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 10,542 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to nearly 221,200.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were more than 1,190 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 240 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 65.
The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 6,797.
MUSEUM CLOSING AGAIN
The U.S.S. Constitution Museum in Boston is closing again in response to the most recent surge of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, museum management said Tuesday.
The museum will remain closed until further notice.
The nonprofit museum, which collects, preserves, and interprets the stories of the U.S.S. Constitution warship and its crew, closed in March as the pandemic took hold, but reopened in early August with measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The museum’s online experience will remain available to the public.
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT OUTBREAK
Nearly 100 inmates and staff at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department have tested positive for COVID-19, authorities said Tuesday.
The positive cases at the Hampden County jail and the department’s other facilities include 79 inmates and 20 staff members, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
Positive staff members are quarantining at home and all positive cases in custody are showing mild or no symptoms, according to the statement. No one has been hospitalized.
The department is screening all workers before each shift for coronavirus symptoms and isolating all new inmates for 14 days, department spokesperson Robert Rizzuto said.
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