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Economic reopening expands; COVID-19 cases continue to fall

June 8, 2020 GMT
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Diners eat outdoors at Mother Anna's restaurant, Monday, June 8, 2020, in Boston's North End neighborhood. Restaurants in Massachusetts can start offering outdoor dining, with the restriction that tables be placed at least six feet apart, on Monday, June 8, as phase 2 of the state's reopening during the coronavirus pandemic kicks in. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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Diners eat outdoors at Mother Anna's restaurant, Monday, June 8, 2020, in Boston's North End neighborhood. Restaurants in Massachusetts can start offering outdoor dining, with the restriction that tables be placed at least six feet apart, on Monday, June 8, as phase 2 of the state's reopening during the coronavirus pandemic kicks in. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — Versatility is the key for management at Joe Sent Me, a suburban Boston restaurant reopening for outdoor dining on Monday as the state continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re fired up about it. It’s about time,” co-owner Sandy McCullough said as he helped set up a tent in the Waltham pub’s parking lot, where staff was placing picnic tables that can accommodate up to six diners each.

“We can put six or seven tables in the parking lot, in addition to the six or seven we can fit on our patio,” he said. “We’re calling it our ‘partio.’”

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Under phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s economic reopening plan during the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants across Massachusetts are allowed to offer al fresco dining only. They have been limited to takeout and delivery orders since mid-March.

Tables have to be placed at least 6 feet apart, dining is by reservation only, and menus must be either disposable or cleaned regularly.

Joe Sent Me’s menu has been revamped to give the eatery a more “outdoors” feel, with additions like potato salad and kabobs. “It’s stuff you’d have at a barbecue in your own back yard,” McCullough said.

He’s also prepared to change the menu on short notice based on the availability and price of some ingredients, he said.

Several people — mostly regulars — have made reservations for Monday night, he said.

Massachusetts Restaurant Association President Bob Luz tells the Boston Herald that roughly 80% of restaurants in the state don’t have patios and will have to wait until phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan.

Baker’s plan to restart the economy comes after the state Department of Public Health reported Sunday that key metrics around the outbreak are on the decline, including the seven-day weighted average of positive test rates, which dipped 5%.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of newly reported cases of COVID-19 has dipped below 200, a further indication of progress against the disease in Massachusetts.

State officials on Monday reported the total number of confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts now stands at about 103,600 with the addition of the 193 newly reported cases.

There were 38 new deaths reported Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic to 7,353.

There were about 1,400 people hospitalized with COVID-19, down from about 2,100 two weeks ago. The number of people in intensive care units fell to 322, down from 576 two weeks ago.

The number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at long-term care homes rose to 4,597, or more than 62% of all deaths.

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COVID-19 REPORTING BILL

A bill that would increase the amount of statewide, publicly available data related to the pandemic has been signed into law by the governor.

The new law requires the Department of Public Health to compile, collect and issue daily online reports on the number of people tested for COVID-19, positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths along with information about gender, race, ethnicity, occupation, disability, age and primary language.

The state already releases daily reports that include much of that information.

The law requires that the daily reports include demographic information from municipalities and counties with more than 25 positive cases, elder care facilities, as well as state and county correctional facilities.

The new law also creates a task force to study the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and make policy recommendations about how to address the disparities.

The task force is required to submit an interim report by June 30 with a final report August 1.

Baker signed the bill Sunday night.

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VIRTUAL COMMENCEMENT

The state is planning a virtual commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020.

Baker will deliver an address as part of the celebration for graduating seniors from public and private schools.

The event will be broadcast Tuesday on WGBH at 7:30 p.m. and local commercial TV stations. It will also be streamed on YouTube, Facebook and WGBH.org.

The ceremony will feature congratulatory remarks from Jason and Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots, members of the Red Sox and the Boston Celtics, and celebrities with Massachusetts ties, including singer Rachel Platten and actor and comedian Steve Carell.

Members of the Boston Pops Orchestra with conductor Keith Lockhart will provide the graduation march “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Students from around the state will also give valedictorian-type speeches.

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TOWN MEETINGS

A bill aimed at helping streamline city and town government during the pandemic was signed into law by Baker on Saturday.

The new law permits town meetings to take place virtually and to be held outside the geographic limits of the town. It also permits municipal elections scheduled through June 31 to be extended to August 1.

The law also lets mayors delay their normal budget submission deadline for FY 2021 and strengthens the prohibition on ending essential services for residents during the COVID-19 emergency.