Gov. Charlie Baker announces that lower-risk communities will be permitted to transition to Step 2 of Phase 3 of the reopening plan at the State House on Sept. 29. (Photo courtesy Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

The Baker-Polito administration announced today that lower-risk communities will be permitted to move into Step 2 of Phase 3 of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan effective Monday, Oct. 5.

Communities designated as red will remain in Step 1 of Phase 3.

Gov. Charlie Baker also issued a revised gatherings order, and industry-specific guidance and protocols for a range of Phase 1, 2 and 3 businesses are being updated.

On May 18, the administration released a four-phased plan to reopen the economy based on sustained improvements in public health data.

Last month, the administration began releasing data for each of the state’s 351 cities and towns on the average daily COVID cases per 100,000 residents, average percent positivity, and total case counts.

Lower-risk communities are defined as those that have not been designated red in any of the last three weekly Department of Public Health reports.

Under the governor’s new executive order, the following sectors will be eligible to reopen, with restrictions, in lower-risk communities only, effective Oct. 5:

• Indoor performance venues will be permitted to open with 50% capacity, with a maximum of 250 people.

• Outdoor performance venue capacity will increase to 50%, with a maximum of 250 people.

• For arcades and indoor and outdoor recreation businesses, additional Step 2 activities, like trampolines, obstacle courses, roller rinks and laser tag, will be permitted to open, and capacity will increase to 50%.

• Fitting rooms will be permitted to open in all types of retail stores.

• Gyms, museums, libraries and driving and flight schools will be permitted to increase their capacity to 50%.

If a community drops into the red category, it will need to move back to Step 1 of Phase 3 until it is out of the red category for three consecutive DPH weekly reports, according to the administration.

Communities have the option to proceed more slowly into Step 2 if they choose, consistent with the administration’s position that cities and towns can decide to be more restrictive than the statewide rules during the reopening process, though they cannot opt to reopen more aggressively than the state’s orders and guidance.

Revised gatherings order
The limit for indoor gatherings remains at a maximum of 25 people for all communities.

Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards will remain at a maximum of 50 people for all communities.

Outdoor gatherings at event venues and in public settings will have a limit of 50 people in Step 1 communities, and a limit of 100 people in lower-risk, Step 2 communities.

During a press briefing, Gov. Baker said the gatherings order governs situations where there isn’t applicable sector-specific guidance. In other words, businesses such as restaurants and retail stores operate under capacity limits set in guidance for those activities, not the gatherings order.