BOSTON (AP) — Fans of amusement parks and road races in Massachusetts are among those who can begin enjoying loosened pandemic restrictions starting Monday.

Under the relaxed restrictions, amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.

Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted with staggered starts and other safety measures after also submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the DPH.

Large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks currently open at 12% capacity will be permitted to increase capacity to 25%. Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high-risk sports.

Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants and other businesses.

State health officials said groceries and retail stores with pharmacy departments will no longer be required to offer senior hours — but should still consider dedicated hours of operation for seniors.

Since March 22, daily new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts have dropped by 45%, hospitalizations have dropped by 23%, and deaths have dropped by 69%.



The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by about 900 Friday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 5.

The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,316 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 652,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were about 460 people reported hospitalized Friday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 140 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 60. There were an estimated 20,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

About 6.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 3.7 million first doses and more than 2.6 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

There have been about 219,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.

More than 2.8 million people have been fully immunized.



The number of Massachusetts cities and towns considered at high risk for coronavirus transmission continues to plummet and was down to 13 as of Thursday, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The number of high-risk communities was down from 26 the previous and week and has declined for four consecutive weeks. The number peaked at 229 in mid-January.

“We’re clearly past the second surge at this point,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

The so-called “red zone” municipalities include Springfield and nearby Chicopee; the Merrimack Valley communities of Lawrence, Haverhill, Lowell and Dracut; New Bedford; and Brockton.

Nantucket and Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard are also on the list.

Rochester was the only new community on the latest list.

Larger communities are designated high risk if they have an average of more than 10 cases per 100,000 residents and a positive test rate greater than or at 4% during a given week.

Cities and towns with 10,000 to 50,000 residents are categorized as high risk if they average more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and have a positive test rate of 5% or higher. If communities with fewer than 10,000 residents have more than 25 cases, they are considered high risk.



Boston’s famed Swan Boats will again begin offering rides in the Public Garden on Saturday after taking last summer off because of the pandemic.

It marks the 144th season that the boats have been in operation.

The season will officially kick off at the Boston Public Garden lagoon at 10 a.m., according to a press release from acting Mayor Kim Janey.

In keeping with health guidelines, masks are required and passengers will be safely spaced both in line and on the Swan Boats.

The Paget family, which has run the Boston tradition since 1877, said last summer was the first time the entire season had been canceled.

Each Swan Boat weighs 3 tons fully laden and is powered by the driver using a foot-propelled paddle wheel.

The idea for the Swan Boats came from the opera “Lohengrin,” based on a medieval German story in which Lohengrin, a knight of the Grail crosses a river in a boat drawn by a swan to defend the innocence of his heroine, Princess Elsa, according to the company's website.