Massachusetts enters Phase 3, though not all businesses ready to reopen; 15 more deaths reported


BOSTON (WPRI) ─ Casinos, gyms, movie theaters and museums were among the businesses allowed to reopen in Massachusetts on Monday as the state entered the third phase of Gov. Charlie Baker’s coronavirus economic recovery plan.

Baker announced the state’s transition to Phase 3 last week, which allows for certain businesses to reopen under industry-specific guidelines. He said he chose to move forward with his recovery plan because key public health metrics, such as new cases and hospitalizations, have been trending in the right direction.

“This may seem like a simple set of rules but it is proven to be enormously effective in slowing the spread of the virus,” he said.

This is only the first part of the state’s transition into Phase 3. Baker said that it will be split into two and will be significantly longer than the first two phases, since Phase 4 or the “new normal” will only begin once there’s a COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic treatments.

While the rest of the state moves forward with Phase 3, Boston has opted to push their transition to July 13. Baker said city officials requested extra time to prepare.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 157 new confirmed cases and six probable cases, along with 15 more COVID-19-related deaths. More than 1 million tests have been administered in Massachusetts to date.

Full breakdown of Monday’s COVID-19 data ( »

Gyms and fitness centers were among the businesses to reopen Monday, though the facilities are limited to 40% capacity and visitors are required to wear a mask while not using equipment.

Movie theaters and outdoor performance venues, as well as museums, gaming floors at casinos and certain indoor recreational activities were also allowed to resume operations under new guidelines put forth by the state.

Reopening Mass: When can my business reopen?

For all businesses, Baker said limiting capacity, face coverings and more frequent cleanings are among the new protocols, all of which are designed to prevent a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

Even though certain businesses have been given the green light to reopen, not all of them are choosing to any time soon.

In Fall River, Picture Show at SouthCoast Marketplace has opted to keep its doors closed for the time being, as nearby businesses eagerly await the economic boost the theater brings.

“We have a dinner and movie program where we give a 10% discount for anyone holding a ticket for that day,” said Dan Rezendes of 110 Grill, which is located in the same plaza as the theater. “So it would be nice to see them reopen, it’s nice to see everybody reopen.”

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has opted to begin its own phased approach to reopening on July 9.

For the first two weeks, only Whaling Museum members will be allowed to visit. The museum plans to reopen to the public beginning July 23. The museum will be open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The thinking is not different than what restaurants do with a soft opening,” Amanda McMullen with the Whaling Museum said. “We’re thinking, ‘let’s work with our closest friends and family who can give us some feedback and take a look at what’s wrong.'”

In order to minimize contact, the museum is asking all visitors to purchase their tickets online in advance.

Baker also eased up on the state’s restrictions on social gatherings, allowing more people to congregate in a social setting.

Indoor gatherings will be limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet and should not exceed 25 in a single enclosed space. Outdoor gatherings in enclosed spaces like concerts and sporting and community events will be limited to 25 percent of maximum capacity and a maximum of 100 people in a single enclosed space.

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