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Reopening Plan Sets Out Start Dates for Industry, Service Sectors

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — The "Reopening Massachusetts" plan released on Monday lays out a four-phase road map to restart of the state's economy as it begins to recover from the global pandemic. 
Limited activities are being allowed this week with the next steps of Phase 1 on May 25 and June 1.
Each of the first three phases of reopening — Start, Cautious and Vigilant — are expected to take three weeks each to reach the final phase, "New Normal." These phases will be modified as necessary based on public health data regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"The report lays out not only which sectors of the economy are slated to open and when but it lays out how businesses reopen while fighting the spread [of COVID-19]," said Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday. "And most importantly, this report lays out what individuals must do to enable us all to move through these phases."
In addition to currently allowed activities, manufacturing, commercial and housing construction can restart with restrictions, and places of worship can open but must limit occupancy to 40 percent and ensure that those not in the same household remain 6 feet apart.  
Hair salons and barber shops, pet grooming, automotive dealers and car washes, offices and laboratories, and curbside or remote pickup for retailers and libraries can start May 25.
Other activities such as gyms, hotels for other than essential workers, other personal services, museums, performance halls, casinos, bars and restaurant dining rooms, and youth sports will have to wait until Phase 2 or 3. 
Educational activities will continue remote through the end of the school year. Higher education facilities can resume research and laboratory work this week and will have to develop plans for how to keep student, staff and faculty safe for any reopening in the fall. 
Child care is still being used for essential service personnel only but the Departments of Early Education and Public Health are working with industries to determine need. Day and residential camps for children will be addressed in Phase 3. 
Businesses that have been operating as essential services have until May 25 to comply with their industry's specific protocols. 
The plan was developed by a 17-member advisory board headed by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy. It has several steps for gradually reopening different sectors of the economy over the next three weeks of Phase 1. 
The base level for any reopening relies on continued social distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitizing of surfaces, and the use of face coverings when social distancing is not possible. Businesses are also encouraged to continue remote work and ensure those who show symptoms of the novel coronavirus stay home. Gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people through the first two phases of reopening with some exceptions.
No business or organization will be allowed to reopen unless it can abide by these regulations. Site-specific restrictions are included in the report. Enforcement will be a joint effort of local boards of health and the state Departments of Public Health and Labor Standards. 
"The goal with enforcement is to educate and promote compliance," Polito said at the reports release on Monday. "We want workplaces to be safer and to incorporate the standards into their places of operation. And, working with cities and towns, we will support our businesses and give them the tools they need to succeed as they make adjustments and welcome back their workers."
She said the advisory board has worked with industries to understand what challenges they would encounter in implementing these safety standards.
"We've laid out best practices, laid out guidance, laid out literally a how-to document," she said. 
The report offers a template for businesses to follow and posters and signs to demonstrate to its employees and the public that they have incorporated the safety standards.
"Phase 1 must complete these steps in order to open and essential businesses that have been operating will be required to complete these steps by May 25," the lieutenant governor said. 
Part of the challenge was building confidence in workers and consumers that they can safely resume some of these activities.
"I think that's really important and why we worked really hard with municipal officials and really listening to the business leaders about that readiness piece about developing confidence for workers to feel safe in returning to their jobs," Polito said. 
Any business reopening will have to provide training and have the supplies on hand to ensure worker and/or customer safety. The reopening plan provides access to manufacturers of sanitizing and personal protective equipment, particularly to those operating within Massachusetts.
"We want the portal to connect Massachusetts businesses in need of supplies with manufacturers who are selling these materials in the commonwealth," said Kennealy. "This portal does include the made-in-Massachusetts manufacturers that have pivoted to producing these supplies."
Starting Monday, the new Safer at Home advisory also asks residents who older than 65 or who are immunocompromised to stay home; for all residents to only leave home for permitted reasons and avoid contact with those who may be at risk; continue wearing face coverings and social distancing; wash hands and remain vigilant for symptoms. 
"I am confident in everyone's ability to play their role, individuals and businesses, everyone must do their part," Polito said. "The next few weeks are really important to make sure, as the governor said, we are vigilant, we're cautious and doing our part."

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By Tor HanseniBerkshires columnist

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