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Gov. Charlie Baker announces the limited reopening of gyms, museums and movie theaters.

Massachusetts Moves Into Phase 3; Gyms, Museums Can Open

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — Fitness centers, movie theaters, museums and other enclosed venues will be able to reopen on Monday with restrictions and the number of people allowed in an indoor gathering is now raised to 25. 
 
"We know that COVID-19 won't be taking any time off this summer. And we need to maintain vigilance if we wish to continue to move forward," Gov. Charlie Baker said at Thursday's announcement. "Today the public health data makes clear that Massachusetts is effectively bringing the fight to the virus as we've reopened. And thanks to all your efforts, Phase 3 will begin here in Massachusetts on Monday, July 6."
 
Dubbed "Vigilant," this next two-step phase will still require basic protocols of sanitation, social distancing and face coverings. Boston will have to wait one more week to enter this phase. 
 
"Phase 3 contains some bigger players that will draw more people into indoor settings, with respect to various activities like movie theaters and museums. Medical evidence continues to say that COVID has a much higher risk of spreading indoors and enclosed spaces, than it does in outdoor spaces," the governor continued. "This phase will last significantly longer than the other phases so that we can closely monitor the impact to our public health data."
 
This next phase will also allow the resumption of league sports — without spectators — and an announcement on those conditions was being held later in the afternoon at Fenway Park.
 
Officials are also urging residents to be careful as they celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend. Most public observances have been canceled to prevent the congregation of large crowds, but those having backyard cookouts or family gatherings should continue take precautions.
 
Baker said the decision to move into Phase 3 was dictated by public health data, which shows the positive test rate for the novel coronavirus has been at about 1.8 percent, a 94 percent decrease since the middle of April. 
 
When asked why he felt confident of moving forward with the reopening, Baker said it was based on advice from public health officials and was largely because people have been following the rules on wearing masks and social distancing. 
 
"We said we were going to give at least two weeks worth of indoor dining ... we've been paying attention to this and people are abiding by the rules, people are abiding by the protocols and it's not like no one's gone [out]," he said. "There have been people dining outdoors and people dining indoors and the overwhelming response we've gotten from the folks we talked to is that people are abiding by the rules."
 
The people of our Commonwealth have stepped up to the occasion. They've displayed tremendous discipline and resilience
 
Lt. Gov. Karyen Polito said going to gym won't look quite the same as it did before the pandemci. 
 
"But we hope that these new protocols will allow more residents to return to exercise and fitness and get back into those routines that they were accustomed to," she said. Also on Monday, museums, cultural and historical facilities and guided tours — small guided tours — will be allowed to resume operations in our commonwealth with limited capacity. Our state is fortunate to have such a rich history of wealth of science, cultural and artistic institutions, and we hope you will enjoy these activities. ...
 
"I know that the operators of these institutions have worked really hard to think creatively, but very mindfully, of your safety."
 
Bars and dance floors will remained closed for the time being, based on spikes of positive cases in other states. Recently, 138 positive cases of COVID-19 were linked to a tavern in East Lansing, Mich. 
 
"The primary driver of much of the significant increase in positive tests and a number of states, has been the reopening of bars and nightclubs," said Baker. "Obviously bars and nightclubs are sitting in Phase 4 under our guidance and there was a reason for that. As difficult as it is to operate and work in those institutions, we could not figure out a way to do that safely. I think some of the indicators we've gotten from other states that move forward with those is that they couldn't figure that one out either."
 
Indoor venues are limited to 40 percent occupancy and must sanitize equipment regularly and require face coverings. While the occupancy numbers have risen, small groups are still limited to six, such as six people at a table within a larger gathering. 
 
Signage for safety protocols must be clearly visible and transportation on tours — whether duck boats or buses — are limited to 50 percent occupancy. 
 
"And as we've always said, data, and not dates will dictate our progress," said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Michael Kennealy. "Let's all remember that we're now in the heart of the travel and tourism season. If you and your family are healthy, there's so much to do here in Massachusetts from the Berkshires to the Cape."
 
Earlier this week, the state lifted the two-week isolation restriction on travelers within the New England states and New York and New Jersey based on those states continued protocols and declining positive cases. Anyone coming from another region, including residents returning home, are advised to isolate for at least two weeks before or after entering the Bay State. 
 
"It's important that we continue to follow the guidance and do all the things that have allowed us to get to this point," said Polito. "It's why we titled this phase of our reopening plan 'Vigilant.' We must remain vigilant in our fight against the virus, as long as it's with us. Everyone has a role to play and everyone must do their part."
 

Governor's orders for Phase 3:

The following businesses will be eligible to reopen in Step One of Phase 3, subject to industry-specific rules concerning capacity and operations:

  • Movie theaters and outdoor performance venues;
  • Museums, cultural and historical sites;
  • Fitness centers and health clubs;
  • Certain indoor recreational activities with low potential for contact;
  • Professional sports teams, under the authority of league-wide rules, may hold games without spectators

Under the updated gatherings order, indoor gatherings are limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet, but should not exceed 25 people in a single enclosed, indoor space.

Outdoor gatherings in enclosed spaces are limited to 25 percent of the facility’s maximum permitted occupancy, with a maximum of 100 people in a single enclosed outdoor space. This includes community events, civic events, sporting events, concerts, conventions and more. This order does not apply to outdoor, unenclosed gatherings if proper social distancing measures are possible.

Health-care providers may continue to provide in-person procedures and services as allowed in Phase II, with the addition of certain group treatment programs and day programs. These programs include adult day health, day habilitation programs, and substance abuse services day treatment and outpatient services. Certain human services programs can reopen including community based day services for adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities and psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouses.


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North Adams School Committee Votes for Remote Learning

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday rejected a hybrid school reopening model to vote 3-2 to go full remote. 
 
The decision to start school with the remote option was apparently influenced by a letter the School Committee members received from the North Adams Teachers Association expressing concern over re-entering the schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Committee member Tara Jacobs said she was not comfortable potentially exposing staff to the novel coronavirus in motioning to go with the remote option to start and later transition to a hybrid model. 
 
"There's no good scenario but the decision to open the school and have someone dying or having health conditions for the rest of their life ... ," she said, motioning to start the school year remotely.
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