BOSTON (WPRI) — Residents in Massachusetts nursing homes and other long-term care facilities can now see their families again after Gov. Charlie Baker eased visitation restrictions Wednesday, which were originally put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Baker said scheduled outdoor visits will be allowed but encouraged long-term care facilities to continue using virtual methods of communication between residents and visitors as well.
No more than two visitors will be allowed to see a resident at each time and must be screened prior to the visit, and a facility staff member must be present for the duration of the visit.
The only exception to the outdoor visits, Baker said, will be for end-of-life situations.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported another 68 COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 7,152. In addition, the health department reported 429 new COVID-19 cases.
Baker also provided new guidelines for retailers, outdoor sports and child care once Massachusetts enters Phase II of his plan to reopen the state’s economy.
Before reopening, day care programs and facilities must have a plan in place to handle possible closings, staff absences and gaps in child attendance.
Children must be limited to groups of 10, with two staff members per group. The infant-to-staff ratio is smaller, however, with seven infants to every two staff members. All groups should be kept in cohorts and not mix.
Everyone, except for children under 2, is required to wear a face mask, and parents will be required to drop their kids off on a staggered schedule.
For retailers, Baker said stores will be allowed to open their doors to customers but will need to ensure that everyone, including both employees and customers, is wearing a face mask, and their store doesn’t exceed 40% of its total capacity.
The new guidelines will replace the existing ones that were in place for essential retailers, including requiring grocery stores and retail with pharmacies to have a dedicated shopping time for customers 60 and older.
Outdoor athletic facilities will also be allowed to reopen in Phase II. Baker said no scrimmages or games will be allowed and contact sports will only be allowed to practice without contact drills.
Groups for sporting events will be limited to 10 people or less, but athletic fields can be used by more than one group at a time, as long as each group maintains at least 20 feet apart.
Baker also addressed the violence that occurred overnight in Brockton. He said the large gatherings can cause further spread of COVID-19 and make it more difficult for the state to continue its contact tracing efforts.
“This is a balancing act between giving people the right to speak up about what they believe and at the same time recognizing and understanding that we are still in the midst of a terribly dangerous and wildly contagious virus,” he said.
Baker commended the amount of people at the demonstrations wearing masks and even said he saw lots of hand sanitizer being passed around. He hopes people will continue to take these precautions and distance to the extent they are able.
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