Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announce the release of Reopening Advisory Board’s report at a State House press conference on May 18, 2020. The report, entitled “Reopening Massachusetts,” details a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19. (Photo: Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

The Baker-Polito administration today released the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, Reopening Massachusetts, which details a four-phased strategy to 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.

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.

The administration has launched a comprehensive website with reopening information, www.mass.gov/reopening, and is providing guidance for specific industries.

The administration continues to remind residents that each phase of the reopening will be guided by public health data and key indicators that will be continually monitored for progress and will be 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 state’s identified public health metrics, manufacturing facilities and construction sites will open effective today with applicable guidelines.

Places of worship will be able to open with guidelines that require social distancing and encourage services to be held outdoors.

Hospitals and community health centers that attest to specific public health and safety standards can begin to provide high-priority preventative care, pediatric care, and treatment for high-risk patients.

Under a staggered approach, additional Phase 1 sectors of the economy will be permitted to open effective May 25, including lab space; office space; limited personal services, including hair salons, pet grooming and car washes; and retail (remote fulfillment and curbside pick-up).

Also permitted to open on May 25 with applicable guidelines, are the following: beaches; 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.

Businesses are not required to reopen, and may not do so if they are unable to follow safety protocols. The administration has developed specific guidance so that each industry reopens as safely as possible. Businesses are expected to implement these protocols in addition to the Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards.

Materials for the sectors eligible to open in the first phase 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 include:
• COVID-19 Control Plan template, which must be retained on premises and provided in the event of an inspection
• Compliance Attestation poster, to be posted in a location visible to employees and visitors indicating a completed COVID-19 Control Plan
• Other posters and signs describing rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, as well as cleaning and disinfecting

Businesses operating to provide “essential services,” as defined in executive orders, 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.

Administration officials have stated that enforcement of the new safety standards is a joint responsibility between the Department of Labor Standards, the Department of Public Health, and local boards of health.

Enforcement will scale from verbal consultation and redirection, to written redirection, to fines, and finally to cease-and-desist letters. Local boards of health that need assistance or guidance can call the DLS hotline at 508-616-0461, ext. 9488 or send an email to safepublicworkplacemailbox@mass.gov.

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 via mass.gov/reopening.

Educational materials will be provided to define how an employer should prepare their work spaces to reopen and what products are appropriate for employees to protect themselves at work.

Safer at Home
Effective today, the Department of Public Health updated the Stay at Home Advisory, replacing it with a new, “Safer at Home” Advisory. Everyone is advised to stay home unless they are headed to a newly opened facility or activity. Those over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions are advised to stay home with the exception of trips required for health care, groceries or other necessities.

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.

Key public health metrics will determine if and when it is appropriate to proceed through reopening phases. They are:
• COVID-19 positive test rate
• Number of individuals who died from COVID-19
• Number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals
• Health care system readiness
• Testing capacity
• Contact tracing capabilities

Reopening phases
The administration announced that the reopening will take place over four phases: Start, Cautious, Vigilant, and New Normal. The administration states that 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 health care 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.

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 75 stakeholder groups representing more than 112,000 different businesses and more than 2 million workers across the Commonwealth. The board also considered written comments from more than 4,500 employers, organizations and individuals.

The MMA developed a set of recommendations to address the needs of cities and towns during the reopening process, and presented those priorities to the Reopening Advisory Board on May 13, urging their adoption in the reopening plan.

The MMA leadership is continuing to hold detailed discussions on its priorities with the administration. Many details and questions will emerge in the coming days and weeks, and the MMA will continue to work on all of these issues.

The Reopening Advisory Board established a municipal government working group that has met three times a week to discuss issues pertaining to cities and towns.

Child care and transit
Child care and summer recreation camps will reopen in a phased approach. The departments of Early Education and Care and Public Health are developing guidelines that balance families’ need for child care with health and safety.

The initial reopening plan will focus on families who have no safe alternative to group care by increasing emergency child care capacity. The Department of Early Education and Care will also partner with industries returning to work to develop options specific to their workplaces.

In March, the administration stood up an emergency child care system to support children of essential workers and vulnerable families with extra virus mitigation protocols. During Phase 1, this child care system will be used to meet the needs of people with no alternatives for care. Only 35% of the emergency child care capacity is occupied, according to the administration, and the system has the ability to serve more families as more sectors come back online.

The administration states that public transportation “unavoidably creates some risk” of coronavirus transmission, but the MBTA, riders and employers can significantly reduce that risk.

​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.

The MBTA will support the transit needs of essential workers and those returning to the workplace in Phase 1, while continuing with limited service.

Resources
Link to Reopening Massachusetts website

Reopening Massachusetts Plan

Link to the Mandatory Safety Standards for all workplaces

Link to Sector-specific protocols and best practices

State guidance on municipal enforcement of COVID-19 orders

Compliance attestation poster

COVID-19 control plan template

Employer reopening poster

Links to updated guidance on outdoor recreation, beaches, campgrounds, boating, hunting, fishing, campgrounds, facility restrooms and more