By STEVE LeBLANC and MARK PRATT, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — The state’s professional sports teams will soon be able to begin practicing again and diners could also begin enjoying outdoor eating at local restaurants, Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday.
Baker said he plans to announce an executive order on Monday that will give more details about phase two of the state’s economic reopening plan assuming the state continues to see downward trends in the number of COVID-19 cases. He said businesses allowed to restart in phase two can begin to bring back some workers to help prepare for reopening.
Restaurants would be able to begin to welcome back diners for outdoor seating during the first part of phase two with indoor seating possible later in phase two.
The Administration will announce on June 6 the start of phase two, which could begin as soon as June 8.
Tables must be placed six feet apart with a maximum party size of six people. The use of bars, except for spaced table seating, won’t be allowed. Single use utensils and menus are encouraged and diners will have to wear masks until they are seated. Reservations are also encouraged.
Hotels, motels and other lodging businesses will also be allowed to expand their operations in phase two, provided they adhere to strict hygiene protocols.
While sports teams will be allowed to begin practicing, the public won’t be allowed into the facilities, according to Baker, who said he hoped the practices will help pave the way for a return to sports at some point.
“There’s just so many times you can actually watch the Patriots beat the Falcons, or the Celtics beat the Lakers or the Bruins beat the Canucks, or the Red Sox beat the Yankees or the Cardinals or the Angels,” Baker said, referring to old games that have been playing on television during the pandemic.
“At some point it’s got to be live,” he said.
The number of individuals in Massachusetts diagnosed with confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 95,500 as the state reported more than 600 new cases Friday.
The overall number of confirmed COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic climbed to 6,718 as another 78 deaths were reported.
The number of people currently hospitalized with the disease fell to 1,991, down from about 2,767 two weeks ago.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care also fell to 485 — down from 749 two weeks ago.
More than 62% of overall deaths — 4,180 — were reported at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Almost every nursing home in Massachusetts has tested virtually every resident and staff member for the coronavirus, according to state data, but experts warn that continued vigilance is necessary to prevent new outbreaks.
The testing has been completed at 350 out of 360 nursing homes in the state, the state Public Health Department said.
“I would say the worst of this surge has passed for now, but we are going to remain ever-vigilant,” Rich Bane, CEO of BaneCare nursing homes told The Boston Globe. “The new normal is intense vigilance on infection control until we can have a vaccine.”
The state asked long-term care facilities to test 90% of their staff and residents in order to qualify for a share of $130 million in additional funds the state allotted to cover pandemic costs. The state paid for the one-time testing, but experts said facilities will need even more funding going forward.
More than 20,000 residents and staff of long-term care facilities in Massachusetts have tested positive for the virus, and more than 60% of the state’s more than 6,600 coronavirus-related deaths were nursing home residents.
RETURNABLE CANS AND BOTTLES
Massachusetts residents whose returnable cans and bottles have been accumulating during the pandemic will soon be able to return them.
Consumers will be allowed to redeem the nickel deposits at automated collection machines at retailers starting June 5, while face-to-face, over-the-counter redemptions are scheduled to resume June 19, the Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement Friday.
The state’s bottle bill was temporarily suspended on March 18 due to risks associated with the coronavirus.
Customers returning cans and bottles will still be required to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines.
DROPKICK MURPHYS, SPRINGSTEEN CHARITY SHOW
There won’t be any fans in the stands when Boston-based rockers the Dropkick Murphys play a short set at Fenway Park on Friday evening to raise money for charity, but music lovers will still be able to catch the show live on social media.
Although plenty of musicians have played Fenway over the years, the Dropkick Murphys will be the first to play on the actual infield.
The band will be joined remotely by Bruce Springsteen for what’s being called “Streaming Outta Fenway.”
A text-to-donate campaign will support the Boston Resiliency Fund — set up in response to the coronavirus pandemic — as well as Feeding America and Habitat for Humanity.
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