Baker: Phase three to start July 6

Fitness centers, museums, movie theaters to reopen.

Airport Fitness in West Tisbury.

Updated 5:55 pm

Fitness Centers, museums, and movie theaters have the green light to reopen — with restrictions — on Monday to kick off phase three, dubbed “vigilant,” of the state’s reopening plan, Gov. Charlie Baker said during his Thursday press briefing.

Baker said the public health data has shown that Massachusetts is “bringing the fight to the virus.”

Phase three, similar to phase two, will consist of two steps. Along with fitness centers, museums, and movie theaters, professional sports teams will also be able to hold games without spectators and casinos will be allowed to open.

Each industry must follow strict guidelines for reopening.

Fitness centers include gyms, weight training, yoga, and spin class. Occupancy must be kept under 40 percent, equipment must be sanitized between each use, and face coverings must be worn.

For the YMCA, reopening the gym to members is still a ways off. “We do anticipate opening to the general membership the way we have been open in the past, I just can’t say how quickly that will be, or give dates associated with it,” said YMCA executive director Jill Robie-Axtell.

“It’s important to the Y that when we do reopen and people are coming in to use the gym and to do group exercise classes, that the experience is a good one,” Robie-Axtell said. “We’re trying to weigh what we can do with what is the right thing to do, in terms of member experience and in terms of what’s safe.”

Museums and cultural institutions will be allowed to continue small tours on Monday as well. Museums must display clear signage, and institute timed entry ticketing. Despite these new guidelines, the M.V. Museum plans to keep their main building closed for the time being, according to an email to The Times from museum director Katy Fuller. “We have a number of improvements we need to make in the main buildings that need to be implemented before we can safely welcome visitors inside, but now that we have guidelines from the state, we can proceed on those,” Fuller said. Doherty Hall, a barn-like building that houses the museum’s larger objects, will reopen under phase three.

For indoor and outdoor events such as weddings and parties, bars and dance floors must remain closed, guests must be in groups no larger than six people. 

Richard Paradise of the MV Film Center said that the center is tentatively aiming to reopen on Wednesday, July 8, of next week. Paradise noted that they already have their films lined up — “The Trip to Greece” and “Emma,” and that the center has “John Lewis: Good Trouble” on deck for the following weekend. 

The Film Center has an extensive list of health protocols, including requiring masks for all who enter, banning paper transactions, sanitization between film screenings, diminished screening amounts to two per day, reduced capacity within the theater (which Paradise estimated to be around 35-40 people maximum). 

“We’ll be socially distancing people within the theatre,” said Paradise. “We’ll be blocking off rows and blocking off seats, though people will still have to wear a mask.” 

Paradise also noted that the center has no air ducts within the theater, which should eliminate germ or allergen circulation. He said also that the theater has recently been sanitized.

While stressing that COVID-19 is “not going anywhere this summer,” Baker said indoor gatherings will be limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet, but should not include more than 25 people in a single enclosed space. Outdoor gatherings and enclosed spaces are limited to 25 percent of a facility’s permitted occupancy with a maximum of 100 people outdoors.

“These are all important steps that continue to bring us closer to what we might call our ultimate new normal,” Baker said in part. “What you have been doing is working. Massachusetts is reopening while continuing to contain COVID. We’ve made progress, but we’re far from being out of the woods. COVID-19 will be with us until there’s a vaccine or some medical breakthroughs with respect to treatments.”

Baker clarified this does not apply to outdoor unenclosed gatherings such as barbecues or a walk through the park.

“The success is due in no small part to the vigilance and dedication that has been shown by the people of Massachusetts,” Baker said. “But we should not and can not step back now. Please keep it up on the face coverings, the hand washing, the social distancing, and staying home if you’re sick.”

When asked why he had confidence about reopening while other states are seeing rises in cases, Baker said guidance for reopening in phase three has been reviewed by public health and health care experts. He added that residents and business owners have been complying with guidelines from the state.

Baker also said opening bars and nightclubs have been a “primary driver” in increased positive tests in other states. Bars and nightclubs fall under phase four of the state’s reopening plan. Phase four, dubbed “new normal,” will only be reached once there is a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital confirmed its first COVID-19 case in nearly five weeks on Wednesday, bringing its total number of positive cases to 29. 

Spokesperson for the Island boards of health Maura Valley told The Times in an email that the new hospital confirmed case is actually a retest of a person who was tested at the Island Health Care test site at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, keeping the Island’s total number of confirmed cases at 34 and probable cases at 18.

The new confirmed case is the first for the hospital since May 30. As of Thursday, the hospital has tested 1,701 total patients with 1,644 negatives, and 28 are pending results.

As of Thursday, Island Health Care (IHC), which tests asymptomatic individuals, reported that in total it had tested 2,799 patients with four positives, 2,613 negatives, and 182 pending results.

The town of Aquinnah is also conducting self administered saliva tests. So far 27 people have been tested. None have come back positive, 19 are negative, and eight are pending results.

Test kits are provided by the Aquinnah board of health. They are available for pick up at the board of health office window at the Aquinnah Town Hall. The test can be taken at home and mailed to a lab for testing.

The boards of health have separately reported two confirmed cases.

The 34 cases are the total COVID-19 cases reported by Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Island Health Care (IHC), and the boards of health.

Of the 34 cases, 20 are female, and 14 are male. Nine of the cases are aged 50-59 years old, seven cases are 60-69 years old, seven are 20-29 years old, five are 30-39 years old, two are 20 years old or younger, two are 40-49, and two are 70 years or older.

The boards of health have also started reporting on probable cases. On Wednesday, the Island’s total number of presumed positives was 18, of which 15 were positive antibody tests, and three were symptomatically positive.

Of those, 10 are female and eight are male. Of the 18 presumed positive cases, six are aged 60-69, four are aged 50-59, three are aged 40-49, two are aged 20-29, two are under 20 years old, and one is over the age of 70.



Interns Shelby Regan and Clare Lonergan contributed to this story.

Updated to include more information on phase three reopening, comments from Richard Paradise, and Island case numbers. — Ed.