Gyms, museums, casinos to reopen; 51 new deaths reported

BOSTON (AP) — Gyms, casinos, museums, movie theaters and guided tours are some of the businesses and cultural activities that can begin welcoming back customers and visitors in Massachusetts as the state launches Phase 3 of its reopening plan on Monday.

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In order to open, the facilities will have to meet specific safety protocols, including limiting capacity or instituting timed entries to control how many people are allowed in at a given time, Gov. Baker said Thursday. Tour buses and duck boats will be limited to 50% capacity.

In Boston, the Phase 3 reopening will begin a full week later, on July 13.

Professional sports will also be able to resume playing games under Phase 3, but with no spectators in the stands.

Bars and nightclubs will remain closed for now.

Also during Phase 3, nursing homes and assisted living facilities can ease some restrictions on visitors provided that there are no new positive cases among staff or residents in a 14-day period.

Baker said Phase 3 will take much longer than prior phases as the state continues to monitor efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus and look for any spikes in cases.

“We’ve made progress but we are far from being out of the woods,” Baker said during a Statehouse press conference Thursday. “The last thing we want to do is to move backward as some states have been forced to do.”

Baker also said he hopes everyone can enjoy the Fourth of July holiday while also remaining safe by avoiding large crowds and continuing to wear face masks in public.

Businesses that have been able to survive after being closed for months are looking forward to reopening said Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Massachusetts,

“Unfortunately, the prolonged Massachusetts shutdown has led to many shops and restaurants closing their doors permanently,” he said Thursday in a press release.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

Massachusetts health officials reported another 51 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths in the state on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed and presumed deaths in the state to 8,123 since the start of the pandemic.

There were 195 newly confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday — pushing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to more than 109,300 in Massachusetts.

The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 fell to 681 compared to 760 reported Wednesday.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care ticked down to 113 compared to the 123 reported Wednesday.

The number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at long-term care homes rose to 5,141, or more than 63% of all deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.

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REOPENING SCHOOLS

School committees across Massachusetts are asking the state to cover all costs associated with protecting students and staff from the coronavirus when classes restart.

More than 100 school committees have passed identical resolutions seeking full state reimbursement for all COVID-19-related costs, including masks and other protective equipment and additional teachers, bus drivers, and other staffers who might be necessary so students can practice social distancing, The Boston Globe reported.

“It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that each school district is able to pay for the enormous additional staffing, transportation, and material expenses required to do this,” according to the resolution.

“If the state is going to come out with a mandate to open school safely, they need to make sure we have the money to do it.” said Peter Demling, a member of the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee, who oversaw the drafting of the resolution.

Gov. Charlie Baker said last week he would allocate approximately $200 million from the state's federal Coronavirus Relief Fund for costs related to reopening public schools, but it's unclear if that's enough.

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UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

More than 29,000 people filed initial claims for regular unemployment insurance from June 21 to June 27 — a small decrease of initial claims of under 500 compared to the previous week, and the third consecutive week of decline.

From March 15 to June 27, more than 1 million individuals have filed for regular unemployment insurance in Massachusetts.

Initial claims for a separate program — pandemic unemployment assistance — ticked up.

More than 14,100 people filed initial claims for the assistance for the week ending June 27 — slightly more than the previous week.

Since April 20, more than 638,200 individuals have filed initial claims for the pandemic assistance.

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POP-UP DRIVE-INS

The city of Boston is holding a series of free, family-friendly drive-in movies this month.

The drive-in double features will be set up in parking lots at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Pre-registration is required.

The city will be using an LED screen that is visible during the day and at night.