The Governor has issued today his first phase order for reopening business in Massachusetts under Covid19 protocols. Here is the brief summary:
WHAT IS OPEN?
Under Phase 1, while essential businesses will obviously remain open, manufacturing and construction may now open today with new protocols calling for 6 foot distancing where possible and the wearing of masks inside.
Meanwhile, non-essential offices may open on May 25 at 25% capacity (in Boston, non-essential offices may open at 10% capacity on June 1). Limited personal services such as hair stylists and pet grooming (by appointment only) and car washes may open on May 25 as may general retail operations that can provide curbside pick-up. In addition, many outdoor venues such as beaches and parks, athletic fields and courts, outdoor gardens and zoos, drive-in theaters and other public installations will be opened with guidelines starting on May 25.
Restaurants remain closed for dine in business until Phase 2, which will be no less than three weeks away. The same is true for non-essential retail, lodging, and other personal services such as nail salons and day spas.
The plan sets out a goal for Phase 3 to open bars, gaming, and other entertainment venues such as museums and gyms, but that Phase 3 will not occur for at least 6 weeks from today.
Phase 4 will be the “new normal”. What that will look like remains to be seen.
HOW TO OPEN?
The Phase 1 Order sets forth safety standards for workplaces, at least for now. Among other things, employers must require 6 foot social distancing where possible, require use of masks, provide for signage to remind employees and visitors of social distancing requirements, and provide protocols to ensure proper practices.
The Phase 1 Order also requires certain work place hygiene practices, such as hand washing capacities throughout the work space, frequent hand washing practices and adequate supplies for same, and regular sanitizing and cleaning at certain high touch areas such as workstations, equipment, screens, door knobs, and restrooms.
The Phase 1 Order further requires each business to develop its own custom cleaning protocols for its work areas. Among other things, the Phase 1 Order also requires disinfection of areas where any positively tested employee worked prior to being sent home and requires a plan to regularly clean and disinfect all common areas of the workplace.
Employers are also required under the Phase 1 Order to provide adequate training for workers about distancing and hygiene protocols. Employers must require symptomatic employees be sent home from work, and must also develop policies for dealing with employees who catch Covid19 at work and for returning recovered employees back to work.
There will be sector by sector safety guidance for specific industries as reopening moves from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and so on to the “new normal” goal of Phase 4.
The PowerPoint setting out the Phase 1 Order, as well as the general plan for moving forward, is set forth here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/reopening-massachusetts/download
Many have complained about the pace of the Governor’s reopening plans and, more particularly, about the pace of his communication concerning such plans. While the Governor’s announcement is comprehensive and thoughtful, it lacks many of the details offered by other states such as what New Hampshire provided a couple weeks ago. Whether the slow and deliberative pace being taken in Massachusetts will better serve the public remains to be seen.