Baker Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions

On Tuesday, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that Massachusetts would reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries effective May 10, and put plans in place for further reopening on May 29 and Aug. 1.

“The light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the hard work of so many, is getting closer,” Gov. Charlie Baker said at the State House when announcing the news. “And we can start to look ahead with real optimism for the path forward.”

The Administration continues to take steps to reopen the Commonwealth’s economy with public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction. This includes drops in average daily COVID cases and hospitalizations. Massachusetts remains first in the nation for first vaccine doses and total doses administered per capita, among states with more than 5 million people. The Administration will also relax the Face Coverings Order for some outdoor settings, effective this Friday, April 30.

•Face Coverings Order:

Effective April 30, the Face Coverings Order will be relaxed for some outdoor settings.

*Face coverings will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.

*Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places. Face coverings will also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors and whether held in a public space or private home, except for when eating or drinking.

*At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required. The $300 fine as an enforcement mechanism will be eliminated.

•Phase IV, Step 2 Industries and Gathering Changes:

On March 22, Massachusetts loosened capacity restrictions and advanced to Step 1 of Phase IV of the reopening plan. Since then, case rates dropped by 20%. The positivity rate has dropped to the lowest levels recorded since last summer.

Effective Monday, May 10:

*Large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks currently open as part of Phase 4, Step 1 at 12 percent will be permitted to increase capacity to 25 percent.

*The Commonwealth will reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries including amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks that will be permitted to operate at a 50-percent capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.

*Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the DPH.

*Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high-risk sports.

*Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.

•Effective May 29:

*Subject to public health and vaccination data, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings.

•Subject to public health and vaccination data, additional Phase 4, Step 2 industries will be permitted to open including:

*Street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals, at 50 percent of their previous capacity and after submitting safety plans to the local board of health.

*Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries, will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90-minute limit and no dance floors.

*Subject to public health and vaccination data, the restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to 10.

•Effective Aug. 1:

*Subject to public health and vaccination data, remaining industries will be permitted to open including:

*Dance clubs, and nightclubs

*Saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs and other facilities

*Indoor water parks

*Ball pits

*All industry restrictions will be lifted at that time, and capacity will increase to 100 percent for all industries, with businesses encouraged to continue following best practices. The gathering limit will be rescinded.

*Depending on vaccine distribution and public health data, the Administration may consider re-evaluating the August 1 date. The Department of Public Health will also continue to issue guidance as needed, including guidance to still require masks indoors.

In Boston, however, acting Mayor Kim Janey’s administration announced it would delay most of Gov. Baker’s reopening plans by three weeks (i.e. public gathering of 200 people indoors or 250 outdoors won’t be permitted in the city until June 19 while road races, indoor singing, and certain youth and adult sports tournaments can resume on June 1, as can street festivals and parades on June 19 at 50 percent of the events’ 2019 capacity.)

“In every aspect of Boston’s reopening, we will take the right measures, at the right time, to protect our people and businesses,” Janey said. “As we look ahead to better days, we must remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Reopening our economy does not remove our personal and collective responsibility to remain vigilant.”

For more information on the state’s reopening plan, visit mass.gov/reopening.

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