Massachusetts raising capacity limit for businesses; pro sports to start bringing fans back


SALEM, Mass. (WPRI) — Massachusetts will move two steps ahead in Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan over the next month as long as the public health data continues to improve, the governor announced Thursday.

Beginning Monday, March 1, the state will move to step 2 of phase 3, Baker said, which includes raising the capacity limit for all businesses to 50% and removing the capacity limit altogether for restaurants.

“Thanks to everybody’s commitment to wear masks, distance when appropriate, do their part to stop the spread, we can move forward with the reopening plan,” he said.

Restaurants must maintain six feet of social distancing between parties and limit tables to six people and a 90-minute time frame, according to Baker.

Musical performances in restaurants will be permitted, while indoor performance venues, including concert halls and theaters can reopen at 50% capacity with no more than 500 people. Indoor recreational activities will also be allowed to reopen.

Massachusetts moved back a step in Phase 3 in December, when the state was in their second surge.

Baker said if the state continues down the right path, then phase 4 will begin on Monday, March 22. That would allow indoor and outdoor venues like Fenway Park, TD Garden and Gillette Stadium to welcome back fans with a 12% capacity limit.

“That will make it possible for several large venues and any of the businesses that have been closed sine the beginning of the pandemic to plan to reopen with strict safety measures in place and capacity limits,” he added.

The stadiums will first have to submit their reopening plans to the Mass. Department of Public Health.

After Gillette Stadium made plans to allow some Patriots and Revolution fans to attend games this year, officials changed course in November, saying no fans would be allowed inside for the 2020 season.

Both Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park are currently being utilized by the state as mass vaccination sites.

Gillette was the state’s first mass vaccination site, opening in mid-January, and Fenway Park followed in early February.

“On a day that we reached a milestone by administering the 100,000th vaccination for COVID-19 at Gillette Stadium, we are thrilled to hear Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement,” Gillette Stadium officials said in a statement.

“As the region’s largest outdoor venue, we are confident in our ability to provide a safe and comfortable environment and look forward to welcoming fans back home to Gillette Stadium this spring,” the statement continued.

The Reggie Lewis Center in Boston opened Thursday as another mass vaccination site.

Mass. Department of Public Health reported 1,928 newly confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday, and an additional 33 people had died after contracting the virus.

The data also shows 853 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, with 221 patients in the intensive care unit and 142 on ventilators.

When the state enters phase 4, social gathering limits in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors, however, private gatherings will still be limited to 10 attendees indoors and 25 outdoors.

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