Baker: Phase 3 will begin Monday, including reopening of gyms and casinos

BOSTON (WHDH) – Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday announced that the first step of Phase 3 of the state’s four-phase “path to a new normal” will begin on Monday, including the reopening of gyms, casinos, and museums.

Baker said a positive trend in many key health metrics, including a significant drop in new COVID-19 cases and a decline in hospitalizations, made it possible for the state to move forward with the launch of Phase 3, which has been dubbed “Vigilant.”

“We have been encouraged by the significant progress we’ve made in these metrics. Positive trends in the public health data so far have allowed us to gradually reopen the Massachusetts economy in phases,” Baker said during a news conference at the State House. “The success is in small part due to the diligence and dedication that has been shown by the people of Massachusetts.”

As of Wednesday, 752 coronavirus patients remained hospitalized, 123 of whom were in the ICU. The new positive test rate has also plummeted to 1.8 percent, which marks a 94 percent decrease since mid-April.

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Outdoor wedding and performance venues, movie theaters, guided tours, fitness centers, and indoor pools will also be permitted to open on July 6, with an array of coronavirus restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

Boston will not move forward with Phase 3 until July 13, according to Baker.

Gyms must limit their capacity at no more than 40 percent and sanitizing stations need to be in place. Gymgoers will also be required to wear a mask. Every other machine will be blocked off and there will be markings on the gym floor to enforce social distancing.

Phase 3 also permits professional sports teams to hold games without spectators under the authority of leaguewide rules. Baseball is slated to return to Fenway Park later this month when the MLB kicks off a shortened 60-game season.

Encore Boston Harbor says it plans to reopen on July 12 with a slew of safety measures in place.

“These employers are hugely important to so many people here in Massachusetts, and thanks to the hard work everyone has put in so far, we’re pleased to be able to say that more places can reopen with strict new guidelines,” Baker said.

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Baker also announced revisions to the state’s guidance on gatherings.

Indoor gatherings are limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet, but should not exceed 25 people in a single enclosed, indoor space. Outdoor gatherings in enclosed spaces are limited to 25 percent of the facility’s maximum permitted occupancy, with a maximum of 100 people in a single enclosed outdoor space, including community events, civic events, sporting events, concerts, and conventions.

Because the first step of Phase 3 involves the reopening of more indoor settings, Baker said it will last “significantly longer” that other phases to give the state a chance to closely monitor the impact it has on health data.

“It’s important that we continue to play our part in the fight against this insidious disease,” Baker said. “What we have been doing has been working. The last thing we want to do is move backward like other states have had to do.”

Dr. Shira Doron, of Tufts Medical Center, told 7NEWS that people over the age of 65 and those who are vulnerable to severe complications should avoid indoor places until data shows that it’s safe to return to such settings.

Baker urged all Bay Staters to continue to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and maintain good hygiene habits because a negative trend in health data could force the state to roll back the reopening plan.

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“We should not and cannot slow down or step back now,” Baker said. “We know that COVID-19 won’t be taking any time off this summer.”

Bars, nightclubs, and other large venues will not be allowed to reopen until Phase 4, which will commence when a vaccine or treatment is made available.

Read the state’s full Phase 3 guidance here.

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