LOWELL, Mass. (AP/WPRI) — During a visit to a Lowell restaurant on Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced changes intended to help an industry that’s faced severe restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Beginning on Monday, restaurants will be able to seat up to 10 people at a table instead of six, and they can use their bar areas to serve food as long as proper distancing measures are in place.
“No standing around the bar,” Baker emphasized.
During the news conference, Baker also asked cities and towns not to make a snap decision on schools if they’re moved into a higher risk category for COVID-19, since communities can bounce around.
“Our guidance from the beginning is that people need to look at three weeks worth of data,” he said. “Getting kids back to the classroom is something we believe is critically important to our success and to our kids success going forward.”
In many cases, an increase in cases can be traced to a single event, he noted, adding that it’s important to focus more on trends in the data.
COVID-19 Community-Level Data Map (Mass.gov) »
The governor on Wednesday also announced a $650,000 grant program for organizations that support communities of color, which data shows have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
“These funds will be used to remind people about mask wearing, social distancing, and other steps they can take in their community to help stop the spread,” Baker added.
Additionally, the Baker administration received federal approval to issue additional pandemic EBT benefits in September to families who participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program.
“Every individual, family and community in the Commonwealth should have access to healthy food,” Baker said. “These PEBT benefits will continue to help hundreds of thousands of families.”
These funds, worth an estimated $40 million, are meant to cover the cost of school meals missed due to delayed school openings or remote learning for more than 470,000 students and their families. Baker said the benefits will begin being distributed on September 30.