Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday announced that Phase 3 of Massachusetts’ reopening can begin Monday, July 6. (Phase 3 will begin in Boston on July 13.)
Phase 3 will open in a two-step process, similar to Phase 2, and will last longer than the previous phase so that officials “can closely monitor the impact to our public health data.”
“Phase 3 contains some bigger players that will certainly draw more people into indoor settings. . . like movie theaters and museums,” Baker said. “Medical evidence continues to say that COVID has a much higher risk of spreading indoors in enclosed spaces than it does in outdoor spaces.”
Baker also acknowledged that the beginning of Phase 4 — which would include the reopening of bars and nightclubs — would be dependent on a vaccine or treatment.
The governor also warned that residents should continue to wear face coverings, wash their hands, and practice social distancing to stem the spread of the virus.
Here’s a look at what can reopen under Phase 3, and what restrictions will be in place for each industry, according to state guidance and officials.
The current 10-person limit on any indoor or outdoor gathering is being loosened, effective Monday, July 6 — except in Boston, where it will be effective Monday, July 13, so that the city can work through permitting protocols.
The updated order states that indoor gatherings are limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet, but should not include more than 25 people within a single enclosed indoor space.
Outdoor gatherings in enclosed spaces are limited to 25 percent of a facility’s permitted occupancy with a maximum of 100 people in a single enclosed outdoor space. This applies to community events, civic events, sporting events, concerts, conventions, and more. Baker noted that the limit does not apply to outdoor unenclosed gatherings such as a barbecue in your backyard or a walk through the park, and that the guidance does not supersede specific guidance laid out in the reopening plan.
For indoor and outdoor events like weddings and parties, bars and dance floors must be kept closed, guests must be in groups not larger than six people, and occupancy limits will be in place, officials said Thursday.
Gyms and fitness
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said gyms and fitness centers — including studios offering weight training, cross-training, yoga, and spin classes — will be allowed to reopen Monday, July 6, under sector-specific protocols.
“Going to the gym may not look the same,” Polito said. “But we hope these new protocols will allow more residents to return to exercise and fitness and get back into those routines.”
Fitness centers must keep occupancy under 40 percent, sanitize equipment between every use, and require face coverings from both workers and customers, according to state guidelines.
Occupancy can’t exceed eight people per 1,000 square feet — and all occupancy counts include staff, visitors, and other workers.
All equipment, including weights, machines, treadmills, and bikes, must be spaced out at least 14 feet apart, or 6 feet apart if barriers are installed. (If spacing isn’t possible, gyms should block off equipment in between machines to maintain the 14 feet of distancing.)
“If customers cannot wear a face covering during strenuous fitness activities, physical distancing must be at least 14 feet. If customers are wearing face coverings during fitness activities, physical distancing must be at least 6 feet,” state guidance says.
Customers should be encouraged to use their own equipment such as spin shoes, jump ropes, yoga mats, and water bottles; if shared items are used, they must be sanitized in between each use. Water fountains should be used as refill stations only.
Lockers must be closed or locked to enforce 6 feet of social distancing, and should be sanitized after each use. Gyms should provide sanitizing wipes near the lockers or in the locker room.
All communal and individual showers must also be closed. Saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms cannot reopen until Phase 4.
Towels can still be distributed, but there are rules. They must be stored in clearly labeled (clean vs. soiled) containers, and appropriate temperatures should be used when washing and drying them. Employees also must wear proper protective equipment (gloves and a face covering) while handling towels.
Fans also should not be used indoors, but windows and doors should be opened to increase airflow where possible.
Baker said that professional sports teams, under the authority of league-wide rules, will be able to hold games in Massachusetts — but without spectators.
He declined to speculate on when fans could potentially be allowed back. Previously-released guidelines say that individuals will be allowed to gather in large groups at events — like concerts and sporting events — under Phase 4 of reopening. But there’s no timetable for when that will be implemented, and Baker implied that a vaccine will need to be in place before he’ll allow it.
Movie theaters can reopen under the first step of Phase 3 — with limits of 40 percent of each individual theater or screening room’s maximum permitted occupancy, and never more than 25 people in a single enclosed, indoor space, according to state guidelines.
Seating must also be reconfigured to ensure 6 feet of distance between customers who are not in the same group, which may require blocking every other row of seats, and/or staggered seating within rows. Group sizes are also limited to 10.
Face coverings are also required for all workers and customers. There also likely won’t be any popcorn in the near future: Under the first step of Phase 3, food service is only permitted at outdoor venues, according to state guidelines.
Outdoor performance venues
Outdoor performance venues can open under the first step of Phase 3, with occupancy restrictions of 25 percent of the venue’s maximum permitted occupancy. Venues may not host more than 100 people for any single event.
Performers are encouraged to wear face coverings during performances if possible, and they should remain at least 6 feet apart. Any activity requiring performers to be closer than 6 feet must be as brief as possible, the state guidance says.
Activities that require prolonged direct contact, such as intimate scenes or fight scenes, are discouraged, the guidance says. Also discouraged: Performances that involve singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments.
Audience members should also wear face coverings while seated during performances.
Museums, aquariums, historical sites, and guided tours
These can reopen under the first step of Phase 3.
Guests can expect to see clearly visible signage, timed-entry ticketing, and groups being limited to 50 percent capacity on vehicles like trolleys, buses, and duck boats.
At indoor sites like museums and aquariums, only 40 percent of permitted occupancy will be allowed, or eight people (including staff) per 1,000 square feet, according to state guidelines. Physical barriers for ticket counters and checkout stations should also be installed, and the facilities are encouraged to offer exclusive hours for those in high-risk categories. Face coverings will also be required for all workers and visitors.
Polito said that casinos are part of Phase 3 and are eligible to open Monday. She said the state’s gaming commission has voted on “significant” protocols to keep people safe, and that the casino operators have agreed to those provisions. She also said the casinos will likely begin to activate their workforce, train employees on the new protocols, and then invite the public about a week after that.
Encore Boston Harbor, for instance, said it will open its doors July 12, with new safety and training protocols in place. The Everett casino recently furloughed about 3,000 employees — after keeping them on the payroll for months while shut down — but spokesman Eric Kraus said Thursday that “a large portion” of them will be brought back immediately, and trained in the new protocols next week.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Tuesday approved a set of minimum standards, which dictates that gamblers will not be allowed to play poker, roulette, or craps; that plexiglass partitions will have to be installed to separate guests and employees wherever they are in close quarters; and masks will be essential for anyone moving around the gaming floor.
Under Phase 3, health care providers may continue to provide in-person procedures and services as allowed in Phase 2, with the addition of certain group treatment programs and day programs, such as adult day health, day habilitation programs, and substance abuse services day treatment and outpatient services, according to a statement from the Baker administration.
Certain human services programs can also reopen, including community-based day services for adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities and psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouses.
All providers must maintain compliance with public health and safety standards.
Visitation guidelines have also been updated for 24/7 congregate care facilities and programs overseen by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, including the Departments of Developmental Services, Youth Services, Children and Families, Public Health, Mental Health, and the Mass. Rehabilitation Commission.
MassHealth will also extend its current telehealth flexibility through at least the end of the year.
Tim Logan, Andy Rosen, and Katie McInerney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.