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Phase 3 of the coronavirus recovery starts today, but some businesses will wait

Meg Negron used an electrostatic cleaner at Healthworks in Cambridge as the gym prepared to reopen.
Meg Negron used an electrostatic cleaner at Healthworks in Cambridge as the gym prepared to reopen.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The state allows gyms, movie theaters, museums, and casinos to reopen Monday, but some businesses said Sunday that they are taking it slowly and signaled that customers shouldn’t expect a quick return to business as usual before the pandemic.

Despite the beginning of Phase 3 of Massachusetts’ economic recovery effort, many businesses will delay opening so they can better prepare for new health regulations — which can include capacity limits, the installation of physical barriers, plus requirements for workers and customers to wear masks and practice social distancing indoors.

Boston is also seeking more time to get ready and is holding off implementing Phase 3 until July 13.

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Ned Hinkle, creative director of the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, said they are aiming for a reopening at the end of the month, but nothing has been decided yet.

“We have some planning to do before we are fully prepared,” Hinkle said. “We are weighing our absolute need of opening our business soon, while weighing the safety of our staff and customers.”

For those who say they are set to go — like Mark Harrington Jr., whose family operates more than two dozen gyms across Massachusetts, including in Cambridge, Coolidge Corner, and Chestnut Hill — Monday has been a long time coming.

“We have been working for this day for almost four months now, so we are ready and prepared,” Harrington said. “Some of our members haven’t missed a week in 10-plus years, and [this] has been extremely hard on them.”

Governor Charlie Baker has urged residents not to be complacent for fear that the state’s progress in tamping down the virus will be reversed.

Such fears should be taken seriously, said Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center who has studied the coronavirus. Barocas said Sunday that Phase 3 presents a real risk of increasing the number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts.

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“We’re going to have to be incredibly diligent with hand hygiene, with masks, and with surface cleaning,” he said. “We don’t have much room for a margin of error.”

Barocas, who is also an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine, said the state should focus on encouraging people to learn to practice good behaviors to help slow the spread of the virus.

“We’re going to be stuck with this pandemic, this virus, for a while. We really need to be practicing social distancing, practicing wearing a mask . . . in order to change our behavior,” he said.

The move to reopen in Massachusetts comes as most of the country faces a surge of new cases, including in California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona. As of Sunday, nearly 130,000 people across the country had died from the coronavirus, while about 2.8 million cases had been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Massachusetts, a day before Phase 3 went into effect, the state reported 11 new deaths due to the coronavirus, along with 136 new cases.

That brought the state’s death toll as a result of the coronavirus to 8,183, up from 8,172 a day earlier. The state also had a total of 109,974 cases of the disease, up from 109,838 on Saturday, the state reported. Those figures include both confirmed and probable cases.

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Harrington, whose family operates gyms under the Healthworks, Republic, and Gymit brands, said he was working as part of a group of gym owners to prepare their businesses for when the state would allow them to invite customers back.

At his family’s gyms, clients will be admitted by appointment only, he said. Customers must wear masks and stay 14 feet apart while working out. After each group of reservations, staff will disinfect all heavily touched surfaces. Each gym will also be closed and undergo electrostatic disinfecting twice a day, he said.

For the reopening, only staff who volunteer to work will be at the gyms, Harrington said. Customers have also been given the option to return or ask to have their accounts placed on hold. Physical fitness is important to health, he said, and is all the more important during a health crisis.

Even with the latest phase of the state’s reopening, many businesses people said they would take more time before welcoming customers back, including casino operators.

A spokesman for Encore Boston Harbor in Everett said the casino plans to reopen July 12, while a spokeswoman for MGM Springfield said it will do so the following day. Plainridge Park, in Plainville,is expected to reopen July 8, according to an e-mailed statement.

When casinos reopen, some things will be different: Games like poker and craps won’t be allowed, Plexiglas partitions will be installed to keep people apart, and masks will be required for everyone.

Encore, which had employed about 4,200 workers before the pandemic, will bring back 1,700 of them Monday for a week of training on the casino’s new health and safety program, spokesman Eric Kraus said. Other workers, many of whom were furloughed after the pandemic hit, including 3,000 on June 29, will return as business demands require, he said.

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“Many of our employees are ready to come back,” Kraus said.

Indoor venues like museums and aquariums will restrict the number of people allowed inside. State rules limit them to 40 percentof permitted capacity, or eight people per 1,000 square feet.

In a joint statement, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge said they would open July 12, while MASS MoCA in North Adams will open July 11.

Victoria T. Saltzman, a spokeswoman for the Clark Art Institute, said the museum has been working for months on reopening and wanted to do so in the safest way possible.

“But we always felt that we needed to give ourselves a few days following the launch of Phase 3 to ensure we would be in a position to be fully compliant with all of the Commonwealth’s guidelines before opening our doors,” Saltzman said.

Movie theaters, which on Monday are allowed to open up at 40 percent capacity of their screening rooms, with a 25-person cap in any single indoor space, are also taking it slowly.

At the Brattle in Cambridge and Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre, operators said they had switched to digital on-demand offerings through their websites since closing their doors.

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Katherine Tallman, executive director and CEO of the Brookline theater, said in an e-mail that no firm date for reopening has been set. The theater was waiting for Phase 3 guidelines, she said, and will align its compliance plan to those rules.

The theater continues virtual offerings, plus moderated discussions and film seminars. It will also offer “Curbside Concessions” again this upcoming weekend, she said.


Hinkle, of the Brattle, said the theater has continued to pay its staff of six full-timers and 20 part-timers with donations and revenue from digital offerings. But it doesn’t make up for an open theater.

“I think the bottom line for all of us doing that [is] it cannot replace the income from ticket attendance,” he said. That, plus the loss of concession sales, has been “a huge hit for us.”

Jaclyn Reiss and Dasia Moore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.



John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.