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COVID-19 Update: State begins Phase 2 reopening

As retail stores and shopping malls began opening their doors across Massachusetts, and residents enjoyed some socially distanced al fresco meals where someone else washed dishes for a change, Harvard looked pretty much the same this week.

Most Phase 2 reopenings started June 8, but a second step to Phase 2 will allow indoor dining and services such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, and personal training. No date has yet been set for that. Most reopenings came with state restrictions regarding number of customers allowed, social distancing, and face coverings, and some local establishments are adding their own restrictions as well.

Despite restrictions, the reopenings are bringing some sense of normalcy to residents’ lives. In addition to outdoor dining and retail stores, the Phase 2 list includes hotels and inns, driving ranges, and outdoor sports programs for adults. And summer just got a bit better as pools, mini-golf courses, playgrounds, and day camps can open. A favorite of Harvard youth, Tom Denney Nature Camp, will open this summer. Kimball Farm in Westford has opened its outdoor grill, driving range, mini-golf, and batting cages. A spokesperson for the business said the remainder of the facility, including the popular bumper boats, will be opening very soon. And prospective drivers are now able to hit the road as behind-the-wheel training, banned at Massachusetts driving schools during the pandemic, is once again allowed.

Several of Harvard’s retail establishments, including the General Store and the Fiber Loft, are still operating with curbside pickup only. The son of General Store owner Scott Hayward, Steve, told the Press, “At the moment, we’re focused on maintaining our online store, but we’re also exploring the idea of reopening the brick-and-mortar shop for customers in accordance with Phase 2 guidelines.” Fiber Loft owner Carrie Brown told the Press the store will reopen June 20 with regular hours, though without Thursday evening hours. Only two customers at a time will be allowed in the store, and masks will be required. She said classes will probably not resume until next year.

At press time, restaurants in Harvard were open for takeout only. The General Store will present its outdoor seating plan to the Select Board for approval at its June 16 meeting. At the June 9 meeting of the Board of Health, members agreed they should be involved in that process.

As for Siam Pepper and Sorrento’s, Town Sanitarian Ira Grossman said either could have outdoor dining as long as they don’t exceed their current seating capacities. For example, if a restaurant is limited to 50 seats, that is the maximum that could be set up outdoors, and when indoor dining returns, the total of indoor and outdoor seats cannot exceed 50. Town Administrator Tim Bragan told the Press that the town’s current state of emergency also requires that the Select Board approve an outdoor seating plan for any restaurant in town planning to offer outdoor dining. At its meeting, the Board of Health stressed that a distance of 6 feet needs to be maintained between patrons, not just tables, with ample space to walk between. Patrons at the same table need not sit 6 feet apart, but no more than six customers at a table are allowed under state guidance.

Bragan said, except for Town Hall, town buildings will remain closed to the public for the near future, although curbside pickup began at the library on June 9 (see story above). Town Hall will remain open by appointment only. Parks and Recreation Commission member Bob O’Shea told the Press town playgrounds will remain closed because the town does not have staff to monitor or sanitize them. The beach will also remain unstaffed for now. Playing fields will reopen for unorganized activities, but only for groups of 10 or fewer people. Organized groups will be allowed to begin practices and drills under the supervision of the organizer, who must follow a long list of state guidelines regarding distancing and sanitization.

Emerson Hospital Marketing Communications Manager Leah Lesser told the Press that Emerson Hospital is now fully open for most services, including elective surgeries and routine health screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Physicians’ offices are open as well. Services not yet open include cosmetic procedures, cardiac rehabilitation, and the wellness center. Phase 2 has also allowed the hospital to relax its visitor policy. One healthy adult is now allowed to visit any area of the hospital, and in maternity, one healthy adult is allowed in addition to the mother’s support person.

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