reopening Massachusetts

Gov. Baker Releases Guidance for Youth Sports, Retail Stores Ahead of Phase 2 Reopening

The governor said the state has made "significant progress" in the fight against COVID-19, but warned that residents need to continue doing their jobs in the fight against the virus

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration released new guidance Wednesday for youth sports, summer camps and retail stores as they prepare for Phase 2 of the state's reopening.

The governor said he plans to announce on Saturday when the second phase will officially begin, which could be as soon as June 8 if public health trends continue to trend in the right direction.

"We've made significant progress in fighting COVID," Baker said "But as more things reopen and as we get into the summer, we must all remember how quickly we move forward will ultimately depend on how well we do our jobs," including wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and good hygiene and staying home whenever possible.

As the mother of two teens, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said she undertands how difficult it has been on those families who have children who play sports.

"It's been even tougher for our kids that miss their friends and their teammates and the togetherness they feel as they practice and enjoy their time," she said.

As part of Phase 2, outdoor fields, courts, pools and boating facilities will reopen for organized youth and adult sports, but contact sports like basketball, baseball and soccer will be limited to no-contact drills and practices.

The new guidance on outdoor and indoor athletic activities also allows for indoor sports facilities to reopen soon for organized youth activities, but groups must limited in size to 10 participants and games or scrimmages are still prohibited. Fitness centers, yoga and spin studios, rock gyms, and other general fitness studios will remain closed in Phase 2.

They will be required to follow specific protocols, including social distancing, hygiene, cleaning and distancing, just like the other industries that have reopened so far.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday laid out his vision for Phase 2 of his plan to reopen Massachusetts.

Mike Kennealy, secretary of Housing and Economic Development, also provided details Wednesday about retail operations, which will be allowed to have customers back in stores as part of Phase 2 after only being allowed to provide curbside pickup in Phase 1.

"We think it's important to note for retail customers, when Phase 2 begins the retail customer experience will be different than before," he said.

Stores will be required to monitor customer entries and exits and limit occupancy to either 8 persons — including staff — per 1,000 square feet of accessible, indoor space, or 40% of the retail store’s maximum permitted occupancy, whichever is greater. Grocery stores and pharmacies must continue to provide at least one hour of dedicated time for adults 60 or older.

Malls can also operate at 40 percent occupancy.

Massachusetts officials this week began reporting both confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and deaths. Under the new method — which includes probable cases dating back to March 1 — total cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts have now topped 101,000.

There were 50 new deaths reported Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths in the state to 7,085.

Gov. Charlie Baker has outlined a plan to allow restaurants to reopen in Massachusetts.

Other numbers released Tuesday continued to indicate progress in the battle against the disease.

There were 1,657 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, down from 2,472 two weeks ago. The number in intensive care units stood at 394, down from 672 two weeks ago.

The number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities rose to 4,382, or about 62 percent of all deaths.

Baker said it's too soon to tell if the number of people protesting the death of George Floyd could lead to an uptick in new coronavirus cases.

"Anytime there are big gatherings with close quarters, the potential for spread is real," he said. "We're obviously going to continue our testing and tracing programs, but it will be a few weeks before we know."

The Associated Press and State House News Service contributed to this report.

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