Here's an update of Tuesday's COVID-19 news from across New England:
Massachusetts is now officially in the first phase of its economic reopening.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
The initial "Start" phase of the reopening plan that Baker administration officials rolled out Monday will last for at least three weeks and could be longer, depending on public health data measuring the progress of the continued fight against COVID-19.
Houses of worship, manufacturing and construction were all allowed to reopen Monday with new health and safety protocols in place, and some non-emergency hospital care can resume. Next week, other businesses including hair salons, car washes and pet groomers will be able to resume operations, and stores — including recreational marijuana shops — can begin offering curbside pickup.
Businesses will look different as they reopen, with face coverings newly required, office occupancy restricted and other industry-specific guidelines in place.
"This is something no one's ever done before, shutter then reopen everything from a beachfront to a factory floor with standards in place to slow the spread of a highly-contagious virus. So I ask everyone to keep this in mind: this guidance asks people to change behaviors and it changes the way some of our favorite places look and feel," Gov. Charlie Baker said. "This is not permanent. At some point, there will be treatments and ultimately a vaccine. But for the foreseeable future, everyone needs to continue to do the right things to bring the fight to the virus so that we can continue to move forward."
Baker also said Monday that there hasn’t been a decision made yet on when — and how — professional sports teams like the Patriots and Red Sox could begin playing games again.
New Hampshire restaurants were allowed to begin serving customers for outdoor dining on Monday, and Jim Tanner and Steve Duprey may have been the first to take advantage of it.
They were sitting outside The Works Café in Concord with their coffee by 6:02 a.m., two minutes after it opened.
For several years, they’ve been among a group of friends who meet at the café every weekday morning. Since the governor issued the stay-at-home order, Tanner and Duprey have altered the tradition — getting coffee to go and chatting outside for a few minutes, standing 10 feet apart.
“Today was nice because we saw the tables out and thought, `Hey, we can sit here and enjoy the nice weather,’” said Tanner, a retired IBM sales executive who has missed the morning gatherings.
“Folks kind of paraded in ... it was a very nice way for many of us to start our day and get a lot of social contact with all facets of society,” he said.
Restaurants, which previously had been restricted to take-out and delivery, can now serve diners outside, with tables six feet apart. Staff who work directly with customers must wear masks, and customers are asked to wear them as well as they enter and exit the property, and if they go inside to use restrooms.
Sean Brown, chief operating officer for the Common Man family of restaurants, said many customers arrived for lunch without masks Monday, but the restaurants provided them. Most locations were moderately busy despite less-than-ideal weather, he said.
“We certainly were not overwhelmed, but the guests that were dining with us were appreciative, they were happy to see us and we were happy to see them,” he said. “I’m confident that the outdoor dining business will continue to grow as guests become more comfortable.”
Brown said staff were happy to get back to work.
“Everyone had a smile on their face today,” he said. “I’ve been telling everyone, even if you have a mask on, our customers can still see a big smile.”
Rhode Island is continuing to emerge from its pandemic-induced slumber, as some restaurants began offering outdoor dining Monday and Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that two state beaches will reopen on Memorial Day.
Raimondo said East Matunuck Beach in South Kingstown and Scarborough Beach in Narragansett will be open with free but limited parking to control the crowds starting next Monday.
Lifeguards also won’t be on duty, and concession stands and bathroom facilities will be shuttered. She promised other beaches will reopen in the next phase of her plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy.
Some restaurants took full advantage of the first day of outdoor dining since the pandemic started, while others said they’re holding off for now.
At Plant City, a vegan eatery in Providence, general manager Steve Anderson said the restaurant was able to bring back nearly half of its staff and has set up 18 tables outside, including some under a large tent in their parking lot.
“It’s great. We’re coming into a season when more people tend to come into Providence to dine,” Anderson said. “Everyone wants to get back to some kind of normalcy.”
On Federal Hill, the city’s famous Italian district, neighborhood mainstay Venda Ravioli is among those waiting until closer to the holiday weekend to reopen.
“We’re definitely excited and ready for it,” said Alicia Iemma, the restaurant’s manager.
Under Raimondo’s plan, restaurants can have no more than 20 tables outside, customers must make reservations and dining parties are limited to up to five people.
Churches and other religious institutions will tentatively be allowed to resume offering in-person services starting the weekend of May 30, Raimondo said Monday.
She promised more details about the plan in the coming days.
The comments come after Bishop Thomas Tobin, the outspoken head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Providence, took to Twitter in recent days to vent his frustration at the continued closure of worship houses.
That haircut will have to wait. Salons and barbershops across Connecticut are not being allowed to reopen on Wednesday after all.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that Connecticut is now aligning its plans with neighboring Rhode Island to reopen hair salons and barbershops sometime in early June. He said the decision came after extensive discussions with the shop owners and employees, many of whom wanted more time to prepare.
“I heard from a lot of the stylists. I heard from a lot of the folks that run the hair salons, and they said, ’Give us a little more time. We’re just not ready. We’re not ready from the employee point of view, feeling comfortable coming back, getting some of the cleaning agents,′ the things they wanted,” Lamont said. “They wanted an extra week or two.”
Over the weekend, the Connecticut Beauty Association, which has more than 3,600 members, expressed concerns about Wednesday’s reopening. The same group planned to hold a “Hair Our Voice” rally, with people driving from the state Capitol to the governor’s residence in Hartford, on Monday afternoon.
Emma Scrivener, 21, a stylist in Willimantic, said she’s relieved by the delay, even though the shut-down has been a financial hardship.
“I learn so much about my customers’ lives. People really trust us and open up to us and I consider them family,” she said. “I’m 21. I’m right in the middle of the range most likely to be asymptomatic carriers. I would hate to be someone who is passing on this virus, despite wearing my mask, despite washing, to someone who is immuno-compromised.”
Connecticut still plans Wednesday to begin the multi-stage process of lifting restrictions, including allowing limited outdoor dining at restaurants. Retail establishments, outdoor exhibits at zoos and museums, outdoor recreation and university research programs will also be allowed to open with detailed, social distancing restrictions.
Maine has gotten rid of a testing prioritization system and is now letting health care providers test anyone suspected of having the new coronavirus, state officials said Monday.
Gov. Janet Mills said the state’s increase in testing capacity means the prioritization system is no longer needed. Mills called the change “a welcome step forward for Maine,” which has had a virus caseload than much of the Northeast, but had also been held back by lack of access to testing.
“Because of this expanded capacity, health care providers in Maine will now be able to get results quickly for a lot more patients, including individuals who might not be exhibiting symptoms but who had close contact with confirmed cases,” said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.
The prioritization system was a tiered system that Maine and other states used because of limited supply of tests. The system made testing more readily available to high-risk individuals.
Mills said the state still needs to further increase its testing capacity.
Hungry Mainers can eat at restaurants and have a seat in 12 of the state’s 16 counties, where restaurants were allowed to reopen Monday to dine-in customers.
Reopening dates for restaurants were moved up from June 1 in counties that have had fewer cases of the coronavirus. Those restaurants that are reopening have limited seating to ensure social distancing can be maintained and have to take extra steps when it comes to sanitizing.
Some restaurants said they would give customers the option of using plastic utensils and plastic or paper drinking cups.
Remote camps as well as sporting camps, which provide access to wilderness activities such as hunting or fishing, were also allowed to open Monday to Maine residents, along with out-of-state visitors who have completed a 14-day quarantine.
The 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors has been a source of frustration for Maine’s tourism industry. Mills has said the state is looking at alternatives.
Vermont continued its gradual reopening from the coronavirus pandemic Monday as customers were allowed into retail stores for the first time since the lockdown began in March with restrictions on capacity and the need to keep people apart.
At Shaw’s General Store in Stowe, Manager Alex Stevens said Monday afternoon business at the establishment that describes itself “as the store with most anything,” was steady, but not overwhelming.
“We are thrilled to have people in the store,” Stevens said, noting the customers complied with their requirement for facial coverings. “People have been very thankful that we are open.”
They didn’t have any trouble keeping occupancy to the maximum of no more than 25% of capacity, but even in normal years it’s not yet the busy time, he said.
“If this was June 15 we’d probably would have to have someone standing there counting,” Stevens said.
The current requirements for retail stores also include face coverings and staying at least 6 feet from customers and other staff members.
State House News Service contributed to this report.