Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker gave the green light to on Monday start phase 3 of the state’s gradual reopening, which includes casinos, professional sports, museums, gyms and movie theaters — except in Boston where it will roll out one week later on July 13.
“Today the public health data makes clear that Massachusetts is effectively bringing the fight to the virus,” Baker said, speaking at the State House on Thursday. “Thanks to all your efforts, phase 3 will begin here in Massachusetts on Monday, July 6.”
Baker said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration requested a one-week lag in implementing phase 3 in order the figure out permitting for the city’s many outdoor venues, which will be allowed to hold events with restrictions.
It’s a decision Paul Craney of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said comes “at the detriment of his own constituents.”
“I don’t know why they need another week when they have had over 100 days to plan for this,” said Craney, who has been a vocal critic of the economic shutdown and phased reopening.
The two-step roll out, similar to what happened during phase 2, will also stay in effect for “significantly” longer, Baker said. Phase 3 includes some “bigger players that will certainly draw more people into indoor settings” where the virus has a higher risk of spreading, Baker said.
Baker on Thursday also increased the limit on indoor gathering sizes up to 25 people, though no more than six people will be permitted to congregate together, he said.
“It’s critical that we continue to be smart about how to do this. The last thing you want to do is move backwards as we’ve seen other states have to do,” he said.
Massachusetts is charging forward with its reopening plans even as others have pulled back amid a surge in cases in the South and West where states reopened faster.
Professional sports will be allowed to resume games, but without spectators, Baker said, celebrating the return of sports later on Thursday by signing the reopening order at Fenway Park.
Other businesses included in phase 3 will reopen under strict restrictions. Casinos, most of which Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said she expects will take several days to review safety guidance and train staff before opening up, will operate at a reduced capacity. People will be required to wear masks while working out inside gyms.
Baker praised business owners and residents who he said have worked hard to follow protocols to reduce the spread of the virus. The state has continued to see “positive trends” in the health data as it has gradually reopened its shattered economy.
“We know that COVID won’t be taking any time off this summer and we need to maintain vigilance if we want to move forward,” Baker said.
The fourth — and final — phase of the governor’s gradual reopening plan will not be implemented until an effective treatment or vaccine is discovers. Baker declined to speculate on when that might be.
“We cannot and should not let up now,” Baker said, encouraging people to continue to wear masks, social distance and stay home if feeling sick.
Baker’s comments came during his daily coronavirus briefing.