"Phase two" re-opening begins today in Mass

The next major change of the COVID-19 era will come to Massachusetts today, when a range of businesses can reopen or expand their operations with the beginning of Phase 2 in the Baker administration's phased reopening plan.

Restaurants can start outdoor table service, while retail shops, child care facilities and hotels can all stir from shutdowns so long as they follow a range of universal safety regulations and more industry-specific requirements to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Saturday.

Some establishments had been allowed to bring staff back earlier last week for preparation, but it remains to be seen how many will be able to hit the ground running on Monday with less than 48 hours notice before they end more than two months of government-mandated shutdowns.

Some localities have already begun the process of speeding up permitting or partnering with local establishments to help make outdoor dining more accessible.

It is still unclear when the second part of the second phase, which includes indoor dining and close-contact services such as nail salons, will begin. Officials plan to make that decision based on public health trends over the next week or weeks.

Across Saturday and Sunday, state public health officials reported a two-day total of 82 more deaths linked to COVID-19 and 879 new confirmed or probable cases of the highly infectious virus. As of Sunday afternoon, 1,442 patients are hospitalized with the disease.

On both Saturday and Sunday, the administration rated three of the six key metrics it is following amid reopening -- COVID-19 positive test rate, total COVID hospitalizations, and testing capacity — as "positive trend," while the other three — total deaths from COVID, health care system readiness, and contact tracing capabilities — were rated as "in progress."

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