In April, Governor Baker announced that effective April 30th, the Commonwealth’s Face Coverings Order will be relaxed for some outdoor settings. Face coverings will now only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.
Beginning May 10th, indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks will be permitted to increase capacity to 25%. The Commonwealth will also reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries including amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks that will be permitted to operate at a 50% capacity. Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts, and youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high risk sports. Singing will additionally be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.
On May 29th, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings. Additional Phase 4, Step 2 industries will be permitted to open including street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals. Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90 minute limit, and no dance floors.
Finally, on August 1st, subject to public health and vaccination data, remaining industries will be permitted to open including:
-Dance clubs, and nightclubs
-Saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs, etc.
-Indoor water parks
All industry restrictions will be lifted at that time, and capacity will increase to 100% for all industries. It’s important to note that the Administration may consider re-evaluating the August 1st date depending on vaccine distribution and public health data.
Phase 3, Step 2 Information
Public Health official have deemed it appropriate to reopen the state of Massachusetts, following a decline in hospitalizations and COVID-19 infection rates. This would allow our state to return to Step 2 of Phase III, effective March 1 for all cities and towns. This includes the following updates to businesses, activities and capacities:
-Indoor performance venues such as concert halls, theaters, and other indoor performance spaces will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity with no more than 500 persons
-Indoor recreational activities with greater potential for contact (laser tag, roller skating, trampolines, obstacle courses) will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity
-Capacity limits across all sectors with capacity limits will be raised to 50% and exclude employees
-Restaurants will no longer have a percent capacity limit and will be permitted to host musical performances; six-foot social distancing, limits of six people per table and 90 minute limits remain in place
-Residents must continue to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and are encouraged to avoid contact outside of their immediate households. The Travel Advisory and other public health orders remain in effect.
Gathering Changes and Phase IV Start
Effective on March 22, all communities in Massachusetts will move into Step 1 of Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan. This will open a range of previously closed business sectors under tight capacity restrictions that are expected to be adjusted over time if favorable trends in the public health data continue. Effective on the planned advancement to Step 1 of Phase IV, the following industries will be permitted to operate at a strict 12% capacity limit after submitting a plan to the Department of Public Health (DPH):
Indoor and outdoor stadiums
Also effective on March 22, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards will remain at a maximum of 25 people, with indoor house gatherings remaining at 10 people.
Additionally, dance floors will be permitted at weddings and other events only, and overnight summer camps will be allowed to operate this coming summer. Exhibition and convention halls may also begin to operate, following gatherings limits and event protocols. Other Phase IV sectors must continue to remain closed.
Resources for Reopening Massachusetts
If you have questions or comments about the Massachusetts Reopening plan you can submit them here. If you are a business owner and need clarification about what Hygienic or Protective Supplies you need for the workplace or where to buy them, check out this website.
Close Contact Personal Services
These services include hair salons/barber shops, nail care services, skin care services, personal trainer services and more. Information on this sector’s requirements and guidelines can be found here.
Retail Dressing Rooms
You can read more about safety and health protocols for retail stores here.
Offices Space Capacity
More information about office space protocols can be found here.
Governor Baker has announced a four-phase reopening plan for the Commonwealth (numerous links below). It has become clear over the last several weeks that the best way to approach the reopening of society is with great caution. In the Commonwealth, we have made notable strides in flattening the curve and preventing our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. And in order to maintain that forward progress, we cannot rush a transition back to a new normal. Along with the plan, the Department of Public Health has issued a Safer at Home advisory which allows more travel within the Commonwealth, but advises staying home when possible.
The Baker Administration, with guidance from the Reopening Advisory Board, has decided that the progression of the phases will rely on 6 key public health metrics:
- COVID-19 positive test rate
- Number of individuals who died from COVID-19
- Number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals
- Healthcare system readiness
- Testing capacity
- Contact tracing abilities
The first phase will involve opening limited industries with significant restrictions. The second phase will bring the reopening of more industries and businesses with capacity limits and restrictions. The third phase will be slightly less restrictive but will still involve special guidance from the governor regarding operations. The fourth and final phase, also called the “new normal,” will only be possible once there is a therapy or vaccine available to cure cases of COVID-19. Each phase is scheduled to last approximately three weeks, however the plan allows for reversion back to prior phases if public health metrics fall below the acceptable threshold.
Businesses must follow both general and sector-specific health and safety standards. The mandatory safety protocols for all businesses include:
- Social distancing
- Hygiene protocols
- Staffing and operations
- Cleaning and disinfecting
Business owners can go here to find information about required hygiene or protective supplies and can find vendors for such products.
You can find a detailed report of the Governor’s plan here. Each “sector” of business must follow sector-specific protocols when reopening. Each sector can refer to a designated circular and checklist. Business owners may go to the state’s reopening website to find the guidance and documents they need, where each sector has its own guidance and the links can be found on this main page. Businesses are required to self-certify that they have met the standards required to reopen and stay open. Each sector is supplied with a checklist to help business owners ensure they are compliant. In addition to sector-specific protocols, businesses must also follow the general guidance provided by the administration. This information can be found on the main page of the reopening website. You can see a full list of when every business and sector of the economy will open here. It is important to note that employers who are permitted to reopen as part of Phase One cannot bring back employees until they are fully compliant with the guidance provided by the administration.
As you can tell, the protocols to reopen are reasonably rigorous. This plan is a crucial component to ensuring the safety of Massachusetts residents as we gradually return to normal. The level of compliance with the plan and observation of the guidelines put in place will dictate how successful we are with reopening our state.
Candidly, there are some gaps in the reopening plan, including how it will be enforced. There is also a major gap on the issue of childcare. What is a parent with a school-age child supposed to do if they are expected to retune to work soon? In addition, for business owners, the process that determined which sectors are designated for the various phases has been opaque and some of the places that will be permitted to open as soon as next week are businesses that may have difficulty fully complying with necessary standards. I have communicated my concerns to the Baker Administration as have some of my colleagues and we must carefully follow all developments.