BOSTON (AP) — Alcohol regulators in Massachusetts issued fines or warnings last week against 300 businesses for failing to enforce regulations meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.
An additional 900 establishments were found to be following regulations, according to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.
Restaurants with alcohol licences are among the businesses subject to inspections by the commission. Restaurants have been allowed to remain open provided they take precautions like limiting diners or opening outdoor seating.
Baker said that during the Labor Day weekend, the state ramped up public awareness campaigns — including distributing signs, fliers and 4,000 bottles of hand sanitizer — in five high-risk cities: Everett, Lynn, Revere, Chelsea and Lawrence.
More than half the communities in the state, 190, have recorded fewer than five confirmed virus cases over a 14-day period, Baker said.
“The vast majority of communities in Massachusetts, because people did a ton of really hard work and made enormous sacrifices in many cases, don’t have much COVID at all,” the Republican said.
Baker also defended the decision last week by Northeastern University to dismiss 11 freshman students for the fall semester for violating campus social distancing guidelines after they were discovered in the same hotel room.
“The rules were the rules. They were established upfront. Everybody attested to them and they broke them,” Baker said.
He said he feels “feels terrible” for the students and their families, but added that the college experience has changed.
“It’s really important, especially during this time when kids are coming back to school, that everybody appreciate and accept the fact that college is just not going to be the way it was last year or the year before,” he said.
MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS REOPENS
The Museum of Fine Arts, one of Boston's most popular attractions, plans to reopen at the end of September after being closed for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, museum management said in a statement Wednesday.
The Sept. 26 reopening will initially include just the Art of the Americas Wing and two special exhibitions, “Black Histories, Black Futures" and “Women Take the Floor.”
Capacity will be reduced, and all visitors will be required to purchase advance, timed-entry tickets either online or by phone. No tickets will be sold onsite.
Visitors must wear face coverings and undergo a health survey upon arrival. The museum has enhanced its air circulation system, placed hand sanitizer around the galleries and installed signs to encourage one-way foot traffic.
“Museums play a crucial role in providing spaces for reflection, solace and inspiration. We’re grateful to welcome Bostonians back to their MFA and bring a shared experience of art into the lives of many once again," museum Director Matthew Teitelbaum said in a statement.
The museum also plans to open three new exhibits in October and November that had originally been scheduled to open in the spring.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
Massachusetts reported four newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and about 180 newly confirmed cases Wednesday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to nearly 8,940 and its confirmed caseload to nearly 121,400.
The seven-day weighted average of positive tests was less than 1%. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were nearly 340 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of COVID-19, and about 50 in intensive care units.
The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at care homes rose to more than 5,860 or about 64% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.
UNLAWFUL JOB ACTION
State labor relations officials ruled Wednesday that teachers in a Massachusetts school district engaged in an unlawful strike when they refused to enter school buildings last week for training ahead of the return of students.
The decision by the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board could affect districts across the state where teachers are balking at returning to the classroom over coronavirus fears.
The board in its decision said while it understands the Andover teachers union's health and safety concerns, the union cited “no legislation, permission, reasonable accommodation or bargained-for agreement that permitted its members without consequence, to unilaterally dictate where they perform their work.”
The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and the Boston Teachers Union have told members not to enter school buildings unless state and local officials can prove they are safe.
The Andover teachers, who are represented by the MTA, refused to enter buildings on Aug. 31 and instead worked outside on laptops. In response, the Andover School Committee petitioned the labor board.
“The CERB decision aligns with the (Gov. Charlie) Baker administration’s attitude of proceeding toward “normalcy” until something tragic happens," MTA President Merrie Najimy said in an emailed statement. “It calls for risk-taking over prudent planning.”
Baker said Monday he supported the state labor board's ruling.