On Tuesday, April 27, Gov. Charlie Baker announced continued reopening plans for Massachusetts, including restaurant protocols, mask mandates, and both indoor and outdoor social gathering limits. In lieu of this news, this week’s Wellness Wednesday provides important COVID-19 updates, from Baker’s announcement, to advice on safely reentering society, to, as always, interesting reads from around the web.
Baker-Polito Administration Announces Plans for Continued Reopening
The Baker-Polito administration announced that Massachusetts will reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries effective Monday, May 10, and put plans in place for further reopening on Saturday, May 29, and Sunday, Aug. 1. The administration continues to take steps to reopen the commonwealth’s economy with public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction. This includes drops in average daily COVID cases and hospitalizations. Massachusetts remains first in the nation for first vaccine doses and total doses administered per capita, among states with more than 5 million people. The administration will also relax the face coverings order for some outdoor settings, effective Friday, April 30.
Phase IV, Step 2 Industries and Gathering Changes:
On March 22, Massachusetts loosened capacity restrictions and advanced to Step 1 of Phase IV of the reopening plan. Since then, case rates dropped by 20%. The positivity rate has dropped to the lowest levels recorded since last summer.
Effective Monday, May 10:
Large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks currently open as part of Phase 4, Step 1 at 12% will be permitted to increase capacity to 25%.
The commonwealth will reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries including amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks that will be permitted to operate at a 50% capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.
Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the DPH.
Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high risk sports.
Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.
Effective Saturday, May 29:
Subject to public health and vaccination data, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings.
Subject to public health and vaccination data, additional Phase 4, Step 2 industries will be permitted to open including:
- Street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals, at 50% of their previous capacity and after submitting safety plans to the local board of health.
- Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries, will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90-minute limit and no dance floors.
Subject to public health and vaccination data, the restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to 10.
Effective Sunday, August 1:
Subject to public health and vaccination data, remaining industries will be permitted to open including:
- Dance clubs and nightclubs
- Saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs and other facilities
- Indoor water parks
- Ball pits
All industry restrictions will be lifted at that time and capacity will increase to 100% for all industries, with businesses encouraged to continue following best practices. The gathering limit will be rescinded.
Depending on vaccine distribution and public health data, the administration may consider re-evaluating the August 1 date. The Department of Public Health will also continue to issue guidance as needed, including guidance to still require masks indoors.
Face Coverings Order:
Effective April 30, the face coverings order will be relaxed for some outdoor settings.
Face coverings will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.
Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places. Face coverings will also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors and whether held in a public space or private home, except for when eating or drinking.
At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required. The $300 fine as an enforcement mechanism will be eliminated.
For more information on this announcement, visit here.
COVID-19 & Mental Health
Moving forward into Phase IV is a reason to feel hope and excitement, especially when looking forward to a future of hugging our loved ones and seeing smiles on strangers faces. However, the effects of the pandemic — social distancing, quarantining, obsessively cleaning our hands and homes — made for a tumultuous year that can take extreme tolls on one’s mental health. If you are still feeling uneasy about reentering society as normal, I recommend bookmarking The New York Times’ “Nervous Person’s Guide to Re-Entering Society.” It’s a candid, understanding piece that underscores the importance of “dipping your toe” in the water before you jump right in. It’s also helpful to know that you’re not alone. Learn more about the struggles of those with “anxiety about reacclimating into society” in this article from CNBC.
On The Vaccine
The rise in vaccinations and decrease in positive COVID-19 tests and deaths is the impetus for the state’s move into the next phase of the reopening process. While there is still some uncertainty regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, this article from Healthline confirms that the Pfizer vaccine is still effective despite a small window of risk.
As for side effects, I’ve personally heard many things. Almost everyone I know who’s gotten the vaccine has experienced side effects for 24 hours, yet have still encouraged everyone they know to get vaccinated. Health.com described 14 side effects that you may experience after your shot, noting that the article says that the symptoms are “usually mild and do no lasting damage.” Furthermore, this article details the vaccine side effects to expect in your 20s and 30s, which is important now that everyone over 16 is now eligible for a vaccine.
This week’s crop of good reads includes an interesting editorial on COVID-19’s effects on the brain, details on the CDC’s updated mask guidelines, and how yogurt might help you fight COVID-19.
COVID Brain. While we’re all focused on getting back to normal (whatever that may be) Martha McCully examines the internal consequences of the pandemic, from the way our brains will work to the mental health tolls. Read her full article here.
Mask Off? The CDC has released new mask guidelines, which is considered “another step toward ‘normal’ following a year of restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Read more about these restrictions, and when you can take your mask off, here.
Super Yogurt. A recent study by Israeli scientists has “identified molecules in kefir that are effective at treating various inflammatory conditions, including “cytokine storms” caused by COVID-19.” Kefir is a fermented drink similar to yogurt that is created by inoculating either cow or goat milk with microorganism mixtures, such as yeast and bacteria. Read more here.