Baker to Extend Time Frame for Outdoor Dining, Allow Arcades to Reopen

The governor also announced another $5 million in funding to create space for socially distanced commerce, dining and walking

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he plans to sign a pair of executive orders Thursday dealing with outdoor dining and arcade reopenings.

In a visit to the Medford restaurant Bistro 5, Baker said he would sign an order allowing indoor and outdoor arcades to open next week and another that will "extend the time-frame for municipal permitting for expanded outdoor dining."

Gov. Charlie Baker says the Shared Streets and Spaces program, which launched in June as a way to provide funds to local communities to expand sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots, could become part of the "permanent architecture" with respect to how businesses operate.

"That expansion will help restaurants like this one continue serving guests in their outdoor space on the same basic terms that have been permitted since June, and we hope this eases the burden on restaurants and extends their season for outdoor dining as well," Baker said.

Arcades were moved from Phase 3 to Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan as of early July, meaning they wouldn’t have been allowed to reopen until a treatment of vaccine was found. But Baker said the state reconsidered based on what neighboring states were doing.

"Arcades have been open for a while in some of the states surrounding us, and we spent a lot of time talking to our colleagues in those states," Baker said. "They basically said with capacity limitations, rules, hand sanitizer and all the rest, they've been able to reopen safely. We felt, based on what we heard, we could move forward."

Restaurants already struggling during the pandemic are concerned about the change of seasons.

Baker also announced another $5 million in Massachusetts Department of Transportation and federal CARES Act funding would be made available through the Shared Streets and Spaces program, which helps create space for socially distanced commerce, dining and walking. The money doubles the program to $10 million, and Baker said Shared Streets has given out $7.7 million to fund 91 projects.

Bistro 5, Baker said, is one of several restaurants in Medford that's been able to provide outdoor dining space by using the money to acquire Jersey barriers to block off an area and other materials. As the weather gets colder, Baker said, Shared Streets money can also go to heaters and special lighting to to help restaurants extend their outdoor seasons.

The governor said he ate outdoors in Salem on Saturday, and indoors in Marblehead on Sunday, and he was impressed by all of the safety precautions restaurants are taking.

"I think part of what we want people to take out of today and other days like it is people have done a lot of work -- local government's done a lot of work, the state's done a lot of work and restaurants have done a lot of work -- to enhance the safety of their customers and their staff," Baker said. "I certainly think the fall will bring challenges, and the winter will bring challenges. But I think if we do the things we've done and we need to continue to do, it will make whatever we choose to do in the winter a heck of a lot easier to pull off."

Gov. Charlie Baker says the Division of Professional Licensure conducted 92 inspections of businesses in high-risk areas last week and found 47 violations. The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission also conducted inspections at over 1,200 restaurants statewide and issued 300 fines or warnings.

Massachusetts reported four newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and about 180 newly confirmed cases Wednesday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to nearly 8,940 and its confirmed caseload to nearly 121,400.

The seven-day weighted average of positive tests was less than 1%. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were nearly 340 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of COVID-19, and about 50 in intensive care units.

The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at care homes rose to more than 5,860 or about 64% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.

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

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