The Checkup: The fine print of Phase 3

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With this daily feature, The Eagle runs down breaking local developments in the coronavirus crisis.

NOT 'JUST' A PHASE? Over the next few days, The Checkup is wading into the land of fine print. With Phase 3 of the state's reopening set to start Monday, we'll be highlighting rules and recommendations that accompany the restart.

Today: Theaters and performance venues. Coming Monday: Museums.

The items here are highlights only. For the full picture, visit the state's online guidance.

Across the board, the state rules spell out the need for signs about social distancing (and even plastic barriers), including in areas used only by employees. Spoiler alert: Fight scenes in live performances will be "discouraged."

- GETTING IN AND OUT: Indoor movie theaters must keep track of the number of people coming and going and limit seating to 40 percent of maximum permitted occupancy. Whatever those papers say, there should be no more than 25 people in an enclosed, indoor space. Don't have a maximum occupancy? Then don't allow in more than eight people per 1,000 square feet of "accessible" space.

Outdoor venues must also tally people coming in and out and limit occupancy to 25 percent of their max. And never more than 100 people.

- WHILE THERE: Seats should keep patrons six feet apart if they are not in the same group. That may involve blocking off rows of seats and staggering where people can sit within rows.

Audience members "should" wear masks while seated during a show, "unless unsafe due to disability or medical condition."

- LIVE SHOWS: The state has spelled out safety practices to avoid close contact. One, which seems iffy, is to encourage performers to wear face coverings during performances. "If possible," the rules say. (Not, say the actors.)

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Performers should remain at least 6 feet apart. If they have to get closer, keep it brief, the state says. (Hmmm, I've never seen Charlie Baker in a director's chair, but now can picture it.)

"Activities that require prolonged direct contact (e.g. intimate scenes, fight scenes) are discouraged." Henceforth: C-rated intimacy.

One of the things that makes live theater special is the closeness of it all. But the rules ask companies to bar direct interaction between performers and audience members "before, during, or after performances (including backstage and post-performance meet and greets)."

- SOUR NOTE DEPARTMENT: If the show is live and outdoors, Director Baker prefers people not sing or play brass and wind instruments. If that rule is not followed, the state asks that performers keep 10 feet from each other and 25 feet from the front row.

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- HERD HUMANITY: Expect to see your favorite theaters trying to adopt these policies: Show times arranged to avoid people bunching up, and to provide time for cleaning. Lines to sort out — and space out — those waiting. That means lobbies may look different. Intermissions? Theaters are being asked to avoid them.

Monday: Museums.

LEADING INDICATORS: The state Department of Public Health provides the following statistics daily as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Each provides a number and then a percentage change since April 15. Here are the Fourth of July numbers:

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 1.8, down 94 percent.

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 659, down 82 percent.

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- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 3, down 86 percent.

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 18, down 89 percent.

THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's COVID-19 stats held steady Saturday, with the death toll remaining at 45 and the number of confirmed and probable cases flat at 602.

The state Department of Public Health said the number of confirmed and probable deaths as of Saturday statewide stood at 8,172, rising by 23. New cases for Massachusetts increased by 210 to 109,838.

The case tallies (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 373 (55); Hampshire, 982 (116); Hampden, 6,861 (664).

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Saturday, neither Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield nor Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had any cases.

The COVID-19 patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, 11 cases, none in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, four cases, none in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 14 cases, two in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, three cases, none in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, five cases, none in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, no cases.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

To contribute news to The Checkup, please email lparnass@berkshireeagle.com or call 413-588-8341.


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