Gov. Baker Unveils Road Map for Reopening Massachusetts

Manufacturing and construction business can reopen Monday, while some offices and service businesses can follow on Memorial Day

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What to Know

  • Under a plan announced by Gov. Baker, manufacturing and construction businesses, along with places of worship, can reopen immediately with strict guidelines in place
  • On May 25, some office spaces and service businesses, including salons, as well some recreational spaces including beaches can reopen with restrictions.
  • Retail businesses can offer curbside pickup and remote fulfillment starting Memorial Day

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday unveiled Massachusetts’ long-awaited reopening plan, saying manufacturing and construction businesses, along with places of worship, could reopen immediately with strict social-distancing restrictions in place.

Under the plan, unveiled by Baker in a news conference, lab and office spaces, along with a limited number of services businesses such as hair salons, pet groomers and car washes, will be allowed to allowed to open May 25.

The Baker administration on Monday unveiled Massachusetts' plans for reopening the economy.

Only office spaces outside Boston will be allowed to reopen on that day, while those in the city will be allowed to do so on June 1.  

Retail business will be allowed to do remote fulfillment and curbside pick-up starting Memorial Day.

Also on Memorial Day, beaches and parks will be allowed to open with guidelines, as well as recreational venues including drive-in theaters, outdoor gardens and zoos and some athletic fields and courts.

Also as part of the first phase of reopening, hospitals and community health centers will be allowed to provide high-priority preventative care, pediatric care and treatment for high risk patients and conditions.

Baker's announcement marked a significant step for the Bay State, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. As of Sunday, the state has reported 86,010 cases of COVID-19, including 5,797 fatalities.

The governor stressed the need for people to continue adhering to social distancing guidelines, stressing that moving to subsequent phases of reopening depended on it.

"Collective success depends on everyone --government the private sector and especially individuals --playing their part to move us forward," he said. "We cannot move forward unless we commit to continuing to slow the spread."

There will be mandatory workplace safety standards and new protocols to reduce the risk of new COVID-19 transmission in specific industries

The plan calls for continued proper hygiene, maintaining social distancing protocols, and continuing to mandate the use of masks or other facial coverings in public places.

The plan calls for people over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions -- who are at high risk for COVID-19 -- to continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to health care needs.

All residents are advised to leave home only for health care, worship and permitted work, shopping, and outdoor activities. Residents are also warned not to participate in close contact activities such as pick-up sports games.

While many businesses anxiously await details from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker regarding the state's four-phase reopening plan, we now know it will start with places of worship, construction and manufacturing, according to an email sent to local government officials over the weekend and obtained by NBC10 Boston.

Phase two will include the reopening of retail businesses, restaurants, hotels and other personal services such as nail salons and day spas.

The first phase and subsequent phases will last at least three weeks and could stretch longer. If health data trends are negative, specific industries, regions or the entire state may need to return to an earlier phase, Baker said.

Baker is facing pressure from those seeking an accelerated reopening as well as those calling for social distancing measures to remain in place.

Republican Representative Shawn Dooley, of Norfolk County, confirmed that information in an interview with NBC10 Boston and said his constituents were getting frustrated, especially those who own small businesses.

"When you’re running a business, shutting it down for two months, it isn’t easy to just flip a switch and it all turns back on," Dooley said.

Jon Hurst of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts says the upcoming Memorial Day weekend is critical to many businesses. 

“Thirty percent of our members have said if we can’t be open in the month of May they are somewhat to extremely concerned that they will never reopen," Hurst said. 

Gov. Charlie Baker says the first phase of the Bay State's reopening is expected to begin May 18.

In contrast, some doctors, nurses, essential workers, faith leaders and legislators were expected to hold a video press conference Monday, calling on Baker to extend the stay-at-home advisory through June 1 and "to demand that public health and equity guide Massachusetts’ plans to relax the public health safeguards that are currently in place."

State Representative Mike Connolly said extending the stay-at-home advisory would, "give us time to focus on getting our seven-day average of positive test results in line with World Health Organization (WHO) benchmarks, and it would also give us a chance to build consensus and understanding about what comes next, making sure the voices of those most impacted by COVID-19 have a real seat at the table in the decision-making process.” 

Those calling for an extension of the advisory say the governor is risking lives by "prematurely 'opening'" the state. They are also demanding the Reopening Advisory Board include representation from labor leaders, the faith community, and more public health experts.

“We all know that Massachusetts residents are anxious to go back to work. But workers should not have to choose between earning a living and protecting their lives,” said Dr. Regina LaRocque, a physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity.

Baker’s reopening plan has four phases; start, cautious, vigilant and the "new normal."

Before reopening, each business or place of worship will be required to meet new COVID-19 workplace safety standards and protocols. Guidelines specific to each sector have also been established and detail the policies for social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting. Recommended best practices are included, too.

Gov. Charlie Baker has been watching the daily statistics closely ahead of the planned start of Massachusetts' reopening on Monday. He's said that the trends in the daily figures, from the number of new cases to how many people remain hospitalized, were what have been guiding his decision-making process.

For places of worship, some of the guidelines they must comply with include limiting occupancy to 40 percent of the building's maximum permitted occupancy level and having all attendees sit at least six feet apart from anyone not in their immediate household.

Everyone, including staff, must wear face coverings or masks, and the building has to be cleaned and disinfected between each service. There will be no communal gatherings before or after services, and any childcare services must remain closed until additional guidance is provided.

Click here for the full list of the mandatory safety standards that places of worship must operate in compliance with.

Gov. Charlie Baker plans to announce which businesses will be allowed to reopen on Monday.

Face coverings will also be required for all workers in the manufacturing industry, unless it creates a safety hazard. Other guidelines include six feet of separation between people at fixed working stations, supplying workers with adequate cleaning products, and frequent disinfecting of heavy transit areas, heavy machinery and high-touch surfaces like doorknobs or shared tools.

Additionally, lunch and break times are to be staggered, and businesses are to close or reconfigure employee common spaces and other high-density areas where workers are likely to gather.

The construction industry will be required to avoid handshaking and face-to-face meetings whenever possible. If meetings are held, they cannot have more than 10 people. Crews should be kept six feet apart at all times and must wear cut-resistant gloves. If social distancing isn't possible, workers must be supplied with personal protective equipment including face coverings, gloves and eye protection. Large gathering places on construction sites such as shacks and break areas must be eliminated.

Dr. Sarah Fortune, chair of Harvard's Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases discusses ways to stay safe and healthy as the state begins its phased reopening.

Prior to starting a shift, employees will need to certify to their supervisor that they have no signs of a fever above 100.3 degrees, a cough or trouble breathing within the past 24 hours. They also will need to confirm they have not had "close contact" with an individual diagnosed with new coronavirus.

Additionally, a site-specific COVID-19 officer (who may also be the health and safety officer) must be designated for every site except in certain situations. For large, complicated construction projects, a city or town may additionally require the owner to come up with a site-specific risk analysis and enhanced safety plan.

Click here for the full lists of the mandatory safety standards that construction and manufacturing businesses must operate in compliance with.

The state departments of Labor Standards and Public Health, in addition to local boards of health, will be jointly responsible for enforcing the mandatory safety standards. Enforcement will be on a scaled basis and can include fines and cease-and-desist letters.

Baker has repeatedly said he intends to reopen the economy in a cautious and deliberate manner to minimize the risk of new waves of COVID-19 cases.

Baker said key indicators in the state's fight against the virus continued to trend in the right direction.

Data released Sunday continued to show positive trends. Eight percent of tests administered in the state came back positive Sunday, marking the lowest rate since March 24. The percentage of cases currently in the hospital remained at 3 percent amid a slow-but-steady decline in that figure in recent weeks.

There were 95 fewer people in the hospital than the day before, and the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units fell by 45 to 702.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

NBC10 Boston and Associated Press
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