After two months of having the stay-at-home advisory in effect, Massachusetts residents in non-essential industries finally got back to work, approaching something close to a normal routine. On May 18, Governor Baker had released a four-phase approach for reopening the state. It lists the protocols that businesses and individuals are to follow to jumpstart the economy while keeping the numbers of new cases down and giving the strained healthcare system time to catch up.
We are now entering Phase Two of Baker’s plan. To make things just a little more confusing, we’re in step one of two for this phase. This first step allows the following industries to reopen:
- Retail stores (with occupancy limits)
- Childcare facilities and day camps
- Outdoor service for restaurants
- Hotels (no meetings/functions)
- Non-contact personal services (home cleaning, photography, tutoring, etc.)
- Youth/adult amateur sports (with guidance)
- Outdoor recreational facilities
- Small group, non-athletic classes
- Driving schools
- Funeral homes (with occupancy limits)
- Higher education and tech schools (for graduation requirements only)
The date for step two is currently to be determined. It includes indoor restaurant service as well as close-contact personal services like hair/nail care, skin care, makeup/tanning salons, tattoo parlors, personal training, and more.
With these additions, more of the economy is now open. Prior to Baker’s reopening plan, the state was in full lockdown with the exception of essential industries. Effective the day of Baker’s announcement, May 18, places of worship were allowed to reopen as were manufacturing and construction industries. A week later on the 25th, some offices, retail stores, lab spaces, and some personal services (barbershops and car washes, for instance) were allowed to open with restrictions. One restriction was for retail stores. During phase one, they could do curbside pickup only. That has since changed under phase two.
Social guidance across all phases of reopening include wearing face coverings, washing your hands regularly, practicing social distance, and staying home if you feel sick.
“All residents are REQUIRED to cover their face when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public,” explains the Mass Gov website.
The stay-at-home advisory under the lockdown was replaced by a ‘safer-at-home’ advisory. In this revised notice, individuals are encouraged to explore alternatives to social activity. These guidelines include using remote communication, refraining from visiting nursing homes, filling prescriptions for three months in advance when possible, and leaving at home “only for healthcare, worship, permitted work, shopping, and outdoor activities.”
This is the second phase of a pretty conservative reopening plan. People cannot completely go back to their normal lives and routines before this pandemic started. Leaving the lockdown is like waking up from hibernation; the world outside looks a lot different than it did before. These phases represent only the first small steps towards the ‘new normal.’ Baker’s plan actually calls for a fourth phase called “the new normal,” but given that each phase will last a minimum of three weeks, we’re still months away from this.
Most importantly, each subsequent phase will only be entered based on public health data, and if the data show a spike in cases, the government can actually move us backwards. Following CDC guidelines will be critical moving forward, as will keeping informed on the latest fact-checked news.
While far from perfect, these first phases allow many businesses to resume operations. Many of them, especially small businesses, critically needed to reopen their doors or else they faced permanent closure. And for many of the millions of unemployed or furloughed people across the country, getting back to work is utterly necessary.
The openings are exciting, but this is just the first phase of a slow process. All industries are not opening, and not all workers are immediately returning to work. With each phase, more businesses can reopen and more economic activity can safely resume. But at the same time, we can regress to earlier phases, meaning more forced closures. No one wants that, so we owe it to our communities to be strict in following social guidelines.
Wondering if your business can reopen yet? The Mass Gov website has a helpful resource to determine if you can resume operations.
The more strictly people follow each phase and practice good hygiene, the better off everyone will be and the sooner everyone—yes, everyone—can get back to work.