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Here’s what opened in Phase 3 — and could potentially be at stake if Mass. reopening is rolled back

Encore president Brian Gullbrants demonstrated how patrons would play blackjack table games while shielded by Plexiglas.
Encore president Brian Gullbrants demonstrated how patrons would play blackjack table games while shielded by Plexiglas.Lane Turner/Globe Staff


Concerned about trends in the public health metrics, some experts say the state is nearing the threshold for rolling back its phased reopening plan.

The move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 happened less than a month ago, becoming effective July 6 statewide and July 13 in Boston. (Somerville has put Phase 3 of reopening on hold.)

Here are some highlights of what it involved — and what would be at stake in a rollback if Governor Charlie Baker were to decide to do one. The reopenings came with various restrictions imposed by the state that were intended to keep people from spreading the virus to each other.

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In Phase 3:

-- Restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings (both previously limited to 10 people) were loosened to 25 people maximum indoors, and 100 people maximum in a single enclosed outdoor space. (Baker on Friday noted the current 25-person limit on indoor gatherings, specifically, and suggested it was something he might tighten.)

-- Gyms and fitness centers — including studios offering weight training, cross-training, yoga, and spin classes — were allowed to reopen.

-- Professional sports teams were allowed to hold games in Massachusetts — but without spectators.

-- Movie theaters were allowed to reopen.

-- Outdoor performance venues were allowed to reopen.

-- Museums, aquariums, historical sites, and guided tours were allowed to reopen.

-- Casinos were allowed to reopen.

-- Health care providers were allowed to offer more services, such as adult day health, day habilitation programs, and substance abuse day treatment and outpatient services.

-- Human services programs, including community-based day services for adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities and psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouses, were allowed to reopen.

Jim Rooney, chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said, “The [Baker] administration’s responsibility is to do what they’re doing, which is follow the information and have a plan ready should some of the indicators go in the wrong direction.”

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“Clearly the data from across the country is troubling. … We don’t want to have a major reoccurrence” of the virus, he said.

But he also said, “I’m not sure that we’re at a point where we need to make that decision.”

He also suggested that restrictions, if they’re necessary, could be limited, rather than a full-scale rollback of a phase. For example, he said, if the recent clusters are linked to large gatherings, “OK, that’s a place to target.”

In contrast, he said, he wasn’t aware of any problems pinned to restaurant operations.

Meanwhile, he said, “I think the big thing that everyone is watching for is what’s going to happen with reopening schools and whether that creates a reintroduction of infection.”

Martha Sheridan, chief executive of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, also focused on the reports of large gatherings being a problem.

“The administration has suggested that the greater issue right now is our citizens, not our businesses, being less vigilant and participating in unsanctioned activities and gatherings,” Sheridan said in an e-mail. “We’d prefer to drill down on the fundamental cause of rising metrics before we start rolling back the phased reopening and hurting all the restaurants, attractions and cultural institutions that have worked so hard to create safe environments for patrons.”

Baker said Friday that large gatherings reported in communities throughout the state were a “recipe for disaster” in potentially spreading the coronavirus.

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Tim Ritchie, president of the Museum of Science, said he didn’t want to shut down, but would accept it if it were warranted.

“No one wants this to happen. Everyone wants human activity to go forward,” he said. The museum now, he said, is one of the safest places in the city with masking, social distancing, and cleaning going on.

But Ritchie also said he was concerned a rollback might be needed. “The rate of community transmission does seem to be going up,” he said.

He said the museum would “stay focused on the digital side, whether our doors are shut or open.” The museum has had more than 250,000 people visit its digital programming since it first shut its doors in March, he said.

The museum offers basic science programming online for adults, children, and teachers and is aiming to be “really relevant” if students have to learn at home during the pandemic.

The museum is also planning a “deep focus” going forward on educating people about the coronavirus, he said.

“It’s frustrating once again beyond belief that in this public science moment, the public isn’t taking the science seriously,” he said.

Steve DiFillippo, chief executive of Davio’s Restaurants, and a member of Baker’s reopening advisory board, said he disagreed with the bleak interpretations of the public health data and the idea of a rollback.

“I’m against it,” he said. “We’re not Texas and Florida and these other states. We did a great job. We were cautious, we came out slow, and look at what we’ve done. It’s fantastic..”

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At Encore Boston Harbor, which reopened its casino on July 12, officials said that they would “follow the lead of the governor and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.”

“We have an extensive health and safety program here at Boston Harbor and are confident that we have the measures in place to provide a safe and exciting experience for our guests,” said Eric Kraus, senior vice president of communications and public affairs. “And if the governor decides to roll back to Phase 2, we will obviously adhere to that.”

Kraus said that since the casino reopened, “business is meeting our expectations at this time,” and said that guests have commented “favorably” on the health measures put in place, which include thermal scanning upon entry, mandating face coverings at all times, and installing Plexiglas in between gamblers at slots and table games.

“We are committed to providing fun done safely,” Kraus said. “We take this very seriously and we want a safe environment for our employees, as well as for our guests.”

Mark Harrington Jr., president of Healthworks Fitness, said that if a rollback happens, he doesn’t think gyms should be included.

“I think what we’re seeing from data across the country and across the world is that gyms that impose appropriate physical distancing and have customers wear masks are extremely unlikely to be areas that spread COVID-19,” he said, citing surveys from a software company that serves the fitness industry and pointing to a breakdown of infections by industry in Louisiana that was published by that state’s health department.

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Citing the Louisiana data, Harrington Jr. noted that bars, daycares, and industrial settings are more likely to be an area of spreading.

“We don’t believe if the state chooses to roll things back, that gyms should be rolled back, since we’ve shown we can put effective safeguards in place to keep the public safe,” he said, noting that Healthworks gyms require everyone inside their facility to wear masks at all times.

When asked about a potential reopening rollback, a Baker administration official responded by e-mail: “The Baker-Polito Administration instituted one of the most stringent out-of-state travel policies the nation and thousands of travelers are submitting the required information. As with all COVID-19 measures, a combination of personal responsibility and enforcement at the local and state level is necessary. The Administration will augment the order if public health and travel data warrants it.”

Dasia Moore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com. Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss