BOSTON — Three weeks after beginning to bring the state's economy out of its government-induced slumber, Massachusetts will move into the second phase of its reopening plan on Monday, when restaurants can open for outdoor dining, retailers can welcome shoppers back inside their stores and the limit on gathering size (currently at 10) could be "determined based on trends."

Gov. Charlie Baker said Saturday afternoon that the public health data the state uses to track the COVID-19 pandemic has been trending in the right direction and that the virus has receded enough to allow another measured step towards what used to be normal.

As of Friday, Massachusetts had seen 102,557 cases of COVID-19 and had lost 7,235 people to the highly-contagious virus. Though some business and social activity will soon return, Baker made clear Saturday that every business that reopens will have to follow industry-specific guidelines for keeping workers and customers safe as the highly-contagious coronavirus continues to circulate.

"In a world where COVID-19 exists, everything looks a little different. We're asking people to follow new safety protocols, to change how they interact with customers, to stagger work schedules and to work from home," Baker said. He added, "We've asked a lot of everybody here in the commonwealth – every family, every business, every employer, every government agency, every individual – to get to this point, but so far we've made tremendous progress. We've been successful in bending the curve on COVID-19 and the metrics reflect that."

Though some have slammed Baker for being too slow to reopen the economy, others said this week that the state is not yet ready to move into Phase Two. The Massachusetts Public Health Association and other groups came together to produce a set of criteria that they insist should be met before further reopening. The demands include a significant boost in testing activity and a demonstrated decline in infection rates among populations for which the state has incomplete or zero data on the spread of the coronavirus. Several of the group's benchmarks would have precluded Baker from reopening the next group of businesses by Monday.

— Colin A. Young, State House News Service

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