Gov. Charlie Baker Details First Phase of Economic Reopening
BOSTON — Today, the Baker-Polito administration released “Reopening Massachusetts,” the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, which details a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19.
The Administration also released a new “Safer at Home” advisory, which instructs residents to stay at home unless engaging with newly opened activities, as a way to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Who Can Open Now
Starting today, based on current public health data and trends, Massachusetts will begin Phase 1 of a cautious reopening, and workplaces that are permitted to open are required to follow new safety protocols and guidance.
Each phase of the reopening will be guided by public-health data and key indicators that will be continually monitored for progress and used to determine advancement to future phases. Industries, sectors, and activities that present less risk will open in earlier phases. Those that present more risk will open in later phases.
Based on the public health metrics, manufacturing facilities and construction sites may open effective today with applicable guidelines (more on those later). Places of worship will be able to open with guidelines that require social distancing, and they are encouraged to hold services outdoors.
Hospitals and community health centers that attest to specific public-health and safety standards can begin to provide high-priority preventive care, pediatric care, and treatment for high risk patients.
Who Can Open on May 25
Starting Monday, May 25, other businesses may reopen, including lab space; office space; limited personal services, including hair salons, pet grooming, and car washes; retail, with remote fulfillment and curbside pickup only; beaches and parks; drive-in movie theaters; select athletic fields and courts; many outdoor adventure activities; most fishing, hunting, and boating; and outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, and public installations.
Additional sectors expected to open on June 1 as part of Phase 1 include office spaces in the city of Boston with applicable guidelines.
The goal of this phased reopening plan is to methodically allow businesses, services, and activities to resume, while avoiding a resurgence of COVID-19 that could overwhelm the state’s healthcare system and erase the progress made so far.
Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer before moving to the next phase. If public-health data trends are negative, specific industries, regions, and/or the entire Commonwealth may need to return to an earlier phase.
The Commonwealth will partner with industries to draft sector-specific protocols in advance of future phases (for example, restaurant-specific protocols will be drafted in advance of Phase 2).
Success in earlier phases will refine criteria for future phases, including travel, sizes of gatherings, as well as additional retail openings, lodging and accommodations, arts, entertainment, fitness centers, museums, restaurants, youth sports, and other activities.
‘Safer at Home’
Effective today, the Department of Public Health also updated its stay-at-home advisory, replacing it with a new “Safer at Home” advisory, which instructs everyone to stay home unless they are headed to a newly opened facility or activity. It also advises those over age 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay home with the exception of trips required for healthcare, groceries, or that are otherwise absolutely necessary. All residents must continue to wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not possible, and individuals are advised to wash their hands frequently and be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms. Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect.
Protocols for Reopening
Businesses are not required to reopen, and may not do so if they are unable to follow safety protocols. Materials for the sectors eligible to open in the first phase of reopening are included on the mass.gov/reopening website. Guidance for sectors opening in later phases will be posted online in advance of those phases.
In order to reopen, businesses must develop a written COVID-19 control plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Required materials are located on mass.gov/reopening, and include detailed sector-specific circulars and checklists to facilitate compliance.
Required materials for businesses to self-certify are located on mass.gov/reopening, and include a COVID-19 control-plan template, which must be retained on premises and provided in the event of an inspection; a compliance-attestation poster to be posted in a location visible to employees and visitors, indicating a completed COVID-19 control plan; and other posters and signs describing rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, as well as cleaning and disinfecting.
Businesses providing essential services, as defined in the governor’s March 23 executive order and updated on March 31, April 28, and May 15, may remain open and have until May 25 to comply with the general workplace-safety standards, as well as their industry’s sector-specific protocols.
Effective today, hospitals and community health centers that attest to meeting specific capacity criteria and public health and safety standards will be allowed to resume a limited set of in-person preventative, diagnostic, and treatment services.
Effective May 25, other healthcare providers who attest to meeting these standards may resume limited in-person services.
Services that may be performed are limited, based on the provider’s clinical judgment to high-priority preventive services, including pediatric care, immunizations, and chronic disease care for high-risk patients, and urgent procedures that cannot be delivered remotely and would lead to high risk or significant worsening of the patient’s condition if deferred.
Before the phased in-hospital expansion and non-hospital reopening, the following statewide metrics must be met: 30% of hospital ICU beds (including staffed surge capacity) must be available; and 30% of total hospital beds (including staffed surge capacity) must be available.
In order to reopen or expand services, healthcare providers must attest to public-health standards and specific guidelines; ensure adequate personal protective equipment is on hand and a reliable supply chain and other supplies and policies are in place; maintain infection-control readiness (workflow, cleaning, social distancing, etc.); and institute workforce and patient screening and testing protocols. Also, hospitals must have at least 25% ICU and total bed capacity and must reopen pediatric ICU and psychiatric beds if they had been repurposed for surge capacity.
Childcare and summer recreation camps will reopen in a phased approach. The state departments of Early Education and Care (EEC) and Public Health are developing guidelines that balance families’ need for childcare with health and safety. The initial reopening plan will focus on families who have no safe alternative to group care by increasing emergency childcare capacity. EEC will also partner with industries returning to work to develop options specific to their workplaces.
In March, the Baker-Polito administration stood up an emergency childcare system to support children of essential workers and vulnerable families with extra virus-mitigation protocols. During Phase 1, the emergency childcare system already in place will be utilized to meet the needs of people with no alternatives for care. Currently, only 35% of the 10,000-child emergency childcare capacity is occupied, and the system has the ability to serve more families to provide care options as more sectors come back online.
The MBTA has been and will continue to implement measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the system to keep employees and riders safer.
Riders are required to wear face coverings and must make efforts to distance. Riders are asked to avoid riding transit if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Employers are encouraged to stagger schedules and implement work-from-home policies to reduce demand, especially during rush hours.
The MBTA will continue to take protective and preventative measures such as frequently disinfecting and cleaning vehicles and stations and providing protective supplies to workers.
To mitigate risk while providing appropriate levels of service, the MBTA will support the transit needs of essential workers and those returning to the workplace in Phase 1 while continuing with limited service to maximize employee and rider safety. It will ramp up to a modified version of full service by Phase 3, although social-distancing efforts will limit effective capacity on vehicles even after full-service schedules are restored.
The MBTA will also actively communicate public-health guidance and schedule adjustments in-station, online, and over social media.
In order to operate, all Massachusetts businesses will need to meet the mandatory workplace-safety standards and relevant sector-specific protocols published by the state. To support businesses, the state has developed a guide to educate business owners on what supplies are needed to return to workplaces, and a portal to connect businesses with manufacturers and distributors. These are now available to business owners at mass.gov/reopening.
Educational materials will be provided to define how an employer should prepare their workspaces to reopen and what products are appropriate for employees to protect themselves at work. While face coverings are critical, medical-grade face coverings are not necessary for non-healthcare workers.
Schools and Higher Education
As previously announced, Massachusetts’ K-12 school buildings will remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year, with remote teaching and learning in place. Schools will continue offering essential non-educational services to their communities. Plans are being made for summer learning programs and 2020-21 school year, and will be shared with the public in the weeks to come.
Massachusetts’ diverse higher-education institutions continue to foster teaching, learning, student support, and essential research remotely throughout this time. They are working together and in partnership with the state to ensure a safe and gradual return to campus life. In the upcoming weeks, institutions will develop customized reopening plans with safety of their communities in mind.
About the Reopening Advisory Board
The 17-member Reopening Advisory Board, co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, consists of public-health experts, municipal leaders, and members of the business community representing many facets of the Massachusetts economy. Since its formation on April 28, the board met with a total of 75 stakeholder groups including industry associations, regional chambers of commerce, community coalitions, and labor organizations, representing over 112,000 different businesses and more than 2 million workers across the Commonwealth. The Reopening Advisory Board also considered written comments from more than 4,500 employers, organizations, and individuals in the development of its plan.