State to Wind Down Most COVID Business Restrictions

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State to Wind Down Most COVID Business Restrictions

| April 27, 2021
By: Brooke Thomson

The Baker Administration today outlined a roadmap for rolling back virtually all COVID-related business restrictions by August 1.

The governor announced that Massachusetts will reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries effective May 10, with additional re-opening step scheduled for on May 29 and August 1.

All of the re-opening steps are dependent upon continued improvement in public-health measures, including drops in average daily COVID cases and hospitalizations.

On March 22, Massachusetts loosened capacity restrictions and advanced to Step 1 of Phase IV of the reopening plan. Since then, case rates have dropped by 20 percent. The positivity rate has dropped to the lowest levels recorded since last summer.

“These re-opening steps come as good news to areas of the economy that have been hard hit since onset of the pandemic last March. AIM commends the administration for a thoughtful and deliberate process that balances public health with the need to re-start the economy,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Effective Monday, May 10

Large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks currently open as part of Phase 4, Step 1 at 12 percent will be permitted to increase capacity to 25 percent.

The commonwealth will reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries including amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks that will be permitted to operate at a 50 percent capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.

Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the Department of Public Health.

Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high-risk sports.

Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.

Effective May 29

Subject to public health and vaccination data, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings.

Subject to public health and vaccination data, additional Phase 4, Step 2 industries will be permitted to open including:

  • Street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals, at 50% of their previous capacity and after submitting safety plans to the local board of health.
  • Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries, will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90-minute limit and no dance floors.

The restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to 10.

Effective August 1

Subject to public health and vaccination data, remaining industries will be permitted to open including:

  • Dance clubs, and nightclubs
  • Saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs and other facilities
  • Indoor water parks
  • Ball pits

All industry restrictions will be lifted at that time, and capacity will increase to 100 percent for all industries, with businesses encouraged to continue following best practices. The gathering limit will be rescinded.

Depending on vaccine distribution and public health data, the administration may consider re-evaluating the August 1 date.

The Department of Public Health will also continue to issue guidance as needed, including guidance to still require masks indoors.

Separately, the state announced that it will relax the rules on face coverings in some outdoor settings.

Face coverings will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.

Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places. Face coverings will also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors and whether held in a public space or private home, except for when eating or drinking.

At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required. The $300 fine as an enforcement mechanism will be eliminated.