Gov. Charlie Baker announces that Phase 2 reopenings will begin Monday based on positive trends in containment of the pandemic.
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker gave the all-clear on Saturday to begin Phase 2 of reopening the Massachusetts economy on Monday as COVID-19 numbers continue to decline.
He might take his wife out to dinner, he said, but he was finally able to visit his father, who is in a long-term care facility. "He needs a haircut but other than that he's fine," Baker said.
But he cautioned that the state is not out of the woods yet and that residents and businesses should keep up with containment protocols.
"We're asking people to follow new safety protocols to rethink the way they interact with customers to stagger work schedules and to work remotely," he said. "And so far, we're enormously grateful for everyone's support and creativity and adjusting their operations. This is on top of our requests for people to keep their distance where face coverings. And do without several forms of gatherings and socializing. ...
"Since the middle of March, we've asked a lot of everybody here in the commonwealth every family, every business, every employer, every government agency, every individual to get to this point."
The seven-day average for positive tests is down 82 percent since the beginning of May, the three-day average of hospitalized patients is down 55 percent and the number of hospitals operating in surge is down 76 percent.
The state partnered with health-care providers to set up five locations deal with a surge in novel coronavirus cases and Newton Pavilion. On Friday, the COVID Command Center upgraded the metric of positive patients to green, or trending down.
"After caring for 723 patients since its opening on April 10, Boston Hope discharged its last patients earlier in the week. The thousand-bed facility will remain in place for the time being in the event of a second wave," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. "And yesterday, the Newton pavilion, a partnership between the commonwealth, the city, Boston Medical Center and Healthcare for the Homeless, ceased its operations in the last person transitioned to another setting."
The state's reopening advisory board has laid out a four-phase reopening strategy after the novel coronavirus caused a shutdown of all but essential operations in mid-March. The safety regulations closed schools, athletic and performance events, visitations to hospitals and long-term care facilities, and stores that didn't offer necessities such as food and cleaning supplies.
Phase 1 allowed the reopening of limited access to certain personal services, curbside pickup for some retail operations, and manufacturing and construction with continued social distancing.
"As online learning winds down for K through 12, I'm both relieved and happy that our efforts to fight COVID-19 have resulted in this particular milestone today," said the governor. "Parents have been putting up with a lot for the past several months and I hope Phase 2 will offer some different kinds of outlets for kids."
Like Phase 1, this next phase will have three steps over three weeks, and will have three levels of safety guidance for residents, businesses and workers. Some activities are at the discretion of communities.
Step 2 of Phase 2, said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Michael Kennealy, "based on continued improvements in public health metrics, will allow restaurants to serve guests indoors, close contact personal services like nail salons, massage therapy, and tanning salons will also open in step two."
Kennealy said the employers and workers have been asked to make sacrifices during this period and that the reopening process was not expected to be easy.
"But thanks to the cooperation of the public businesses and workers in fighting COVID-19, we've seen strong improvements in key public health metrics," he said. "This gives us the confidence to take the next step in our four-phase reopening plan as we move towards a new normal."
The following businesses will be eligible to reopen in Step One of Phase II on June 8, with contingencies:
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State Declares 'Green Friday' in Support of Local Xmas Tree Farms
UXBRIDGE, Mass. — The Baker-Polito administration has declared Friday, Nov. 27, as "Green Friday" to encourage people across the commonwealth to visit their local farms and nurseries for Christmas trees, holiday plants, and holiday decorating needs.
To celebrate, state Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux participated in a Christmas tree-cutting ceremony at Arrowhead Acres in Uxbridge. In an effort to support the commonwealth's Christmas tree industry, the declaration of Green Friday encourages people throughout the state to visit their local Christmas tree farms to purchase their trees, holiday plants, ornamental swags, and wreaths to fulfill their holiday decorating needs.
"Our administration believes in the importance of supporting our farms by shopping locally and purchasing holiday decorations from one of the commonwealth's many family-operated Christmas tree farms," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "Now more than ever, it is a great time to spend quality time with your family while partaking in this outdoor activity which allows for proper social distancing."
Christmas tree season in Massachusetts provides hundreds of seasonal jobs at approximately 264 Christmas tree farms on approximately 2,801 acres of land from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. The sale of more than 82,524 state-grown Christmas trees contributes approximately $3.5 million to the commonwealth's economy each year. Christmas tree farms, which are often sited on soils that cannot support other crops, stabilize soil, which helps prevent erosion and protect water supplies. When chipped, the trees can be used as a renewable source of energy to be burned as fuel, used as mulch, or composted.
The mayor's remarks were largely to remind residents of the virtual tree-lighting ceremony being broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television starting at 6 p.m., that City Hall offices will be closed Thursday and Friday and as will the transfer station.
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The hashtag "GetBackMass" is part of the latest public awareness campaign launched by the commonwealth. The focus of television and digital advertising will be to promote the idea that "normal" activities can only resume after the threat of the novel coronavirus has subsided.
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