Gov. Charlie Baker announces that Massachusetts will soon reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2, industries and put plans in place for further reopening at a State House press conference on April 27. (Photo courtesy Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

The Baker-Polito administration this morning announced that Massachusetts will reopen additional outdoor activities effective May 10 and is planning for further reopening on May 29 and a full reopening on Aug. 1.

The face coverings order will be relaxed for some outdoor settings effective this Friday.

The administration said it is taking steps to reopen the Commonwealth’s economy because public health metrics are continuing to trend in a positive direction. This includes drops in average daily COVID cases and hospitalizations.

Case rates have dropped by 20% since March 22, when the state loosened capacity restrictions and advanced to Step 1 of Phase 4 of the four-phase reopening plan, the Department of Public Health reports. The positivity rate has dropped to the lowest levels since last summer.

Among the 24 states with more than 5 million people, Massachusetts ranks first for first vaccine doses and total doses administered per capita.

Also today, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley announced that he will require all school districts in the Commonwealth to provide high school students with full-time, in-person learning by May 17.

May 10 reopenings
The following reopening guidelines will take effect on Monday, May 10:
• Large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks, currently open at 12% capacity under Step 1 of Phase 4, will be permitted to increase capacity to 25%.
• Some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries, including amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks, will be permitted to operate at a 50% capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.
• Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the DPH.
• Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate- and high-risk sports.
• Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.

May 29 reopenings
The following changes are scheduled to take effect on May 29 (subject to public health and vaccination data):
• Gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings.
• Subject to public health and vaccination data, additional Phase 4, Step 2 industries will be permitted to open, including:
– Street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals, at 50% of their previous capacity and after submitting safety plans to the local board of health
– Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries, subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90-minute limit, and no dance floors
• Subject to public health and vaccination data, the restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to 10.

In a call with municipal officials this afternoon, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the state will be providing specific guidance for street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals in the coming weeks.

August reopenings
The following changes are scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1 (subject to public health and vaccination data):
• Remaining industries will be permitted to open, including dance clubs and nightclubs; saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs and other facilities; indoor water parks; and ball pits.
• All industry restrictions will be lifted, and capacity will increase to 100% for all industries, with businesses encouraged to continue following best practices.
• Gathering limits will be rescinded.

The administration said it may consider re-evaluating the Aug. 1 date depending on vaccine distribution and public health data. The DPH will also continue to issue guidance as needed, including maintaining the mask requirement indoors.

Polito said the lifting of restrictions on Aug. 1 is “separate from a decision on the state of emergency,” the end date of which is yet to be determined.

Face coverings
Effective April 30, face coverings will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.

Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places. Face coverings will also continue to be required at all times at events, whether indoors or outdoors and whether in a public space or at a private home, except for when eating or drinking.

At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required. The $300 fine as an enforcement mechanism will be eliminated.

Additional April 30 changes
As of April 30, sector-specific guidance will be removed for construction, drive-in theaters, laboratories and manufacturing, all of which will follow Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces.

Golf facilities and libraries should follow Safety Standards and Checklist: Sectors Not Otherwise Addressed.

Guidance from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will be removed for the following recreational activities effective April 30, and replaced by Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces:
• Mountain biking
• White water rafting
• Recreational boating (charter boat guidance remains in place)
• Parks, open space, and outdoor education programs
• Coastal and inland beaches
• Playgrounds, spray decks and outdoor fitness areas
• Hunter education
• EEA outdoor recreation facility restroom cleaning
• Campgrounds

School reopenings
All high schools must return fully in-person by May 17 unless the district receives a waiver from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Waivers will be considered only in a limited set of circumstances, and any district that does not receive a waiver will be required to make up any missed structured learning time.

Districts and schools are being asked to make every effort to have high school students with significant and complex disabilities or high school students who are English learners return to full-time, in-person learning prior to the deadline.

In March, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gave Commissioner Riley the authority to decide when remote and hybrid learning models no longer count toward required Student Learning Time regulations. Riley has used a phased-in approach to bring schools back fully in-person, which began with elementary schools on April 5 and middle schools on April 28.

Currently, there are 146 school districts already fully in-person in grades K-12, according to the DESE. By May 17, a total of 198 school districts plan to be back fully in-person in grades K-12, representing two-thirds of all high schools in the Commonwealth.

Visit the DESE website for more information.

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