State’s Phase 3 re-opening will be delayed a week in Boston

Massachusetts will move into Phase 3 of its re-opening plan on Monday, but impacted businesses and patrons in the capitol city will have to wait an additional week.

Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh discussed the next phase during a press event at Fenway Park on Thursday, in which the Red Sox announced their plans to begin a truncated, 60-game season later this month without fans in the seats. Earlier on Thursday, Baker announced that statewide re-openings in “Part 1” of “Phase 3” will authorize gyms, museums and movie theaters to re-open their doors. It also authorizes professional sports teams to play games without spectators here in the Commonwealth.

Baker also said that limits on gatherings would be lifted to with 25 indoors and 100 outdoors on July 6.

In Boston, however, Phase 3 re-openings will not start until July 13, trailing the rest of Massachusetts by one full week.

"Boston is unique in population, density, and the size of our commercial, hospitality and other sectors. Since the Commonwealth began a phased reopening, we have been developing additional guidelines and licensing measures where appropriate to ensure that we keep our residents safe and healthy," Walsh said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "These precautionary methods take time to implement, as well as tracking and tracing the prevalence of COVID-19 among our residents. Another week will allow us to do the work needed to prepare for Phase 3 and be comfortable moving forward."

When asked about his comfort level in regards to the city’s new re-openings on July 13, Walsh said that Boston is in a “strong position,” but will continue to monitor Covid-19 trends in partnership with state leadership and adjust accordingly.

“I think that all of the information and data we’re looking at right now is moving in the right direction,” the mayor said. “We’ve worked very closely with the governor and I think we’re in a strong position right now, but I think that we’ve all acknowledged that if we see something going higher we’ll take the appropriate action.”

“We see here that people wearing masks is having a positive impact on keeping the rates down, Phase 3 really depends on all of us being really responsible,” Walsh added.

Sam Kennedy, president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox, said the team looks forward to giving Bostonians a pleasant distraction at a time when it is most needed. The team plans an opening day later in July. A firm date has not yet been set.

“We eagerly anticipate other major league sports opening later in August,” Kennedy said. “The only way to get through MLB season is by testing contact tracing and following all safety protocols.”

Kennedy explained that players are now in the “intake process,” with a 48-hour period between players being tested and being cleared to be in the same vicinity. The Red Sox will turn that data over to the MLB, who Kennedy said will “release data in the very near future.”

Walsh said the season will be “historic.”

“We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” said the mayor. “Getting to this point where we can bring baseball back safely is a testament to how hard we’ve worked as a community.”

“We’re certainly not back to normal, but being able to welcome the Red Sox back to Fenway Park and being able to watch a live sport again is a big win for Boston. I want to thank the entire Red Sox organization for giving Boston something to root for.”

Media access will be granted at all Red Sox games, with “very strict health and safety protocols,” said Kennedy. The games will be broadcasted live on television and radio. Kennedy said that masks, social distancing, and general hygiene is a must over the course of the season.

“We’re confident we’ll be able to pull it off and deliver a unique baseball season,” he said.

Baker said he didn’t want to speculate on when fans might be allowed to watch their favorite sports teams in person.

“I hesitate to speculate on things too far down the road,” said the governor. “We continue to learn about coronavirus, and because it’s a new virus… I try to say we make the best decisions we can based on the experts we talk to and the data we have at the time.”