Published December 10, 2020

NORTH READING — Effective this Sunday, Dec. 13, all communities in Massachusetts will return to Step 1 of Phase 3, of the commonwealth’s reopening plan, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday afternoon.

This decision was made in response to the increase in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations since the Thanksgiving holiday that is straining the health care system in Massachusetts, the administration stated.

The rollback reduces indoor capacities across a broad range of sectors of the economy and tightens several other workplace restrictions.

The return to Step 1 will also require the closure of certain businesses designated as Step 2 industries. These include indoor performance venues and certain high-contact indoor recreational businesses.

Capacity reduction to 40%

In addition, capacity limits are reduced to 40% statewide for most industries, and the limit on outdoor gatherings will be reduced statewide from 100 persons to 50 persons.

Additional safety measures are being applied to restaurant dining, with guidance provided for certain other sectors of the economy, such as office spaces and gyms, to address activities where mask wearing is not possible at all times.

“These new measures are designed to prevent infection and viral spread, especially in indoor settings. They will create stronger mask compliance, more social distancing, and limits to the time spent with people outside of your immediate household,” Baker stated.

Phase 3, Step 1

The rollback to Phase 3, Step 1 of the state’s re-opening plan, includes the following restrictions:

• Outdoor gatherings at event venues are limited to no more than 50 people

• Hosts of outdoor gatherings of greater than 25 people are required to provide advance notice of the gathering to their local Board of Health. North Reading’s Board of Health can be reached at: 978-664-6042 or 978-357-5242 during regular business hours (M-Th: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and F: 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or online at:

• Indoor theaters, performance venues and higher contact indoor recreation businesses are closed to the public

• Outdoor theaters and performance venues are limited to 25% capacity up to a maximum of 50 people

In all communities, capacity is reduced from 50% to 40% for the following sectors:

• Arcades and indoor or outdoor recreational businesses

• Driving and flight schools

• Gyms/health clubs

• Libraries

• Museums

• Retail stores

• Offices

• Places of worship

• Lodging (common areas)

• Golf facilities

• Movie theaters (Maximum 50 people per theater)

This new capacity limit will not apply to sectors that do not currently have a percentage-based capacity limit, including restaurants, laboratories and close-contact personal services.

To read the complete six-page governor’s rollback order go to:

To read the seven-page order rolling Massachusetts back to Phase 3, Step 1, go to:

Restaurants and venues

The Administration also announced new guidelines for restaurants and other venues with seated dining, including the following:

• Patrons must wear masks at all times except when eating and drinking

• Restaurants must seat no more than six patrons per table

• Restaurants must impose a 90-minute time limit per table

• Musical performances at restaurants will no longer be permitted

• Food court seating must be closed in malls

• Customers are encouraged to dine only with members of the same household.

Offices and gyms

The Administration announced new guidelines for workplaces and gyms, including:

• In offices, employees must wear masks at their place of work when they are not in their own workspace and alone

• Employers are encouraged to close or limit the use of break rooms

• Patrons must wear masks at all times in gyms

Employers continue to be encouraged by the governor to continue to offer teleworking options to their employees whenever possible.