COVID-19: Massachusetts Advancing to Final Reopening Phase

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In response to declining COVID-19 transmission rates and the continuing vaccine rollout, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that, beginning March 1, the Commonwealth will begin advancing into the second step of Phase 3 and the first step of Phase 4 of the Reopening Massachusetts Plan.

Governor Baker explained that Massachusetts will permit cities and towns to move to the second step of the current Phase 3 of its reopening plan beginning March 1. Step 2 will permit many of the venues currently open with outdoor-only or limited indoor operations to resume indoor activities with expanded capacity.

These Step 2 businesses include movie theaters, retail businesses, gyms and health clubs, museums, libraries, places of worship, performance venues, and indoor recreational facilities. Indoor recreational activities with greater potential for contact (such as laser tag, roller skating, trampolines, and obstacle courses) will be permitted to resume in Step 2.

Step 2 venues will also be allowed to increase capacity limits from 40% to 50%, with a maximum of 500 people total. In addition, percentage-based capacity limits on restaurants will be removed, with the maximum of six people per table and 90-minute time limit remaining in place. Face-covering and social-distancing rules will remain unchanged.

Depending on public health data following the shift into the second step of Phase 3, the administration plans to allow communities to move into Phase 4, the final phase of the Reopening Plan, beginning March 22. Phase 4 will unfold in multiple steps, as with prior reopening phases.

Early Phase 4 businesses include large performance venues, sports arenas, stadiums, ballparks, event spaces, and convention halls. These event spaces may reopen on March 22 to host meetings, overnight camps, and sporting, cultural, and social events, including weddings, subject to capacity limits and other rules.

The reopening of other businesses and events included in Phase 4—including beer gardens, breweries, saunas and steam rooms, amusement parks, bars, nightclubs, street festivals, parades, road races, “ball pits” and agricultural fairs—will likely be delayed until the second step.

Capacity limits that will apply in Phase 4, subject to social distancing of six feet between groups, will be expanded as follows:

  • Public indoor: 100 people in a single enclosed space
  • Public outdoor: 150 people in a single setting, with large venues that can host over 5,000 people — including Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and TD Garden — to reopen with a 12%  capacity limit
  • Private indoor: 10 people
  • Private outdoor: 25 people

These new capacity limits will apply to both public and private venues, including private homes, backyards, parks, fields, and event spaces, but will not apply to large unenclosed public spaces like parks and beaches, subject to sector-specific guidance. Please refer to our previous alert for more information on reopenings and sector-specific guidance in Massachusetts and throughout the region.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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