Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. announced further details regarding the four-phase approach to reopening the state during a news conference on Monday, May 18.
On Monday, firearm retailers and shooting ranges; construction, home remodeling, construction-related home installations, such as painting and repairs; manufacturing facilities; and places of worship were able to resume services.
Each industry has been given a list of guidance specific to its own operations. That guidance can be found at mass.gov/reopening. The guidelines are mandatory. For many industries the guidelines across the board include requiring the use of facial coverings by employees, daily cleaning and disinfecting of high-contact areas such as doorknobs and bathrooms, and ensuring that employees and visitors have access to hand-washing facilities. Employees are also required to stay home if they feel at all ill.
Each business that has been allowed to operate for the duration, as well as businesses readying to reopen, will have to meet a self-certification requirement to open. Those requirements include publicly posting all of the state-approved educational material in terms of workplace safety, such as the compliance attestation poster and employee posters that display the social distancing guidelines, as well as hygiene and disinfecting protocols. A checklist template is also available for employers so that they can check off tasks as they complete each mandated item.
The stay-at-home advisory now becomes a "safer at home" advisory, the governor said. Masks are still required when people cannot maintain social distancing, and pickup sports and visits to nursing homes are still off limits. There was no announcement made yet on any plans for the next school year.
The guidelines state that places of worship can also reopen but that their occupancy is limited to 40 percent capacity and individuals who do not live together must be seated six feet apart. In buildings where there is fixed seating—such as church pews—rows need to be blocked off so that social distancing can be enforced.
Attendees and staff must wear face coverings during religious services, though those with medical conditions that would make a face covering dangerous are exempt. Children under age 2 are also exempt.
Starting Monday, May 25, a number of additional industries, including barbershops and salons; pet grooming businesses; retail stores and libraries for curbside pickup or delivery service only; car dealers for curbside pickup and delivery only; car washes; drive-in movie theaters; office spaces at 25 percent capacity; lab space; and outdoor gardens and zoos, will be allowed to reopen with restrictions in place.
Several of the industries being allowed to start up again next week have been given specific guidance on how they will be allowed to operate.
Office buildings will be allowed to open up with 25 percent of the maximum capacity as defined by the either the state building code or based upon the typical occupancy of the building as of March 1, 2020. Individual work spaces are required to be spaced at least six feet apart, unless doing so would present a safety hazard due to the layout of the office. If physical spacing can not be created, than partitions should be put in place.
Cafeterias will only be able to provide prepackaged foods, and meal breaks should be staggered. Shared use of office equipment such as telephones and fax machines is discouraged and if they are shared, those pieces of equipment should be disinfected after every use. Whenever possible, employees should be given the opportunity to work remotely, especially those who are particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
For hair salons and barbershops, customers as well as employees are required to wear face coverings. Employees will also be required to wear gloves, gowns or smocks, and either prescription glasses or safety goggles. If possible, physical partitions should be installed between work stations.
Tools such as shears and brushes should not be shared between employees, the guidelines state. Those tools should also be thoroughly disinfected between clients. Workers should have a clean smock between customers and businesses are encouraged to use disposable capes and smocks. If a business wants to use reusable items, they will have to be laundered after every use.
In those businesses, waiting areas may be closed and clients will be asked to wait for their appointments from their cars. Nonessential items such as magazines and customer-facing water coolers are required to be removed from waiting areas, as well.
Car washes will be limited to exterior cleaning only and customers will be required to remain in their cars during the service.
In all cases, businesses will be expected to shut down to allow for deep-cleaning if someone at the work site is diagnosed with COVID-19.
Beaches and parks are currently open for walkers. Further activities will be allowed at these places beginning May 25, as well. Allowable activities at parks and other open spaces will include walking, hiking, biking, running, and activities such as yoga. Athletic fields will be open for non-contact sports that do not involve shared-use equipment. Tennis and pickleball were given as examples of acceptable games to play. People using these spaces are expected to sanitize their hands before and after play and to maintain an appropriate distance between people.
Recreational boating will be allowed again on May 25, with all vessels needing to be disinfected after every trip.
Zoos, nature centers and botanical gardens will be allowed to operate at 20 percent of their outdoor capacity. Guests should be counted at the entrance and exit to ensure compliance, and pathways are encouraged to be one-way where possible to allow for social distancing. Any playground areas in those places should be blocked off to disallow use. Only outdoor spaces are allowed to open, so indoor areas of these organizations will still need to remain closed.
Drive-in movie theaters will be able to open again for the sole purpose of showing movies. Concession stands are forbidden from delivering food to cars, and remote payment is encouraged.
Industries in the second phase include outdoor recreation such as go-kart tracks and miniature golf facilities; some outdoor performances; recreational day camps; libraries and retail for inside browsing and shopping; and dine-in service for restaurants.
Gyms and fitness centers, theaters, bars, museums, and movie theaters are all part of the third phase.
Gov. Baker said there will be at least three weeks between phases and that the coronavirus is expected to be a presence throughout the reopening process. Whether a new phase begins will be dependent upon whether certain metrics, such as new COVID-19 cases and related deaths, are on a decline. New phases will be delayed if those figures increase.
The governor's plan also allows for some elective medical services to resume. Cape Cod Healthcare announced that as of Monday, May 18, it has met the state's guidelines when it comes to resuming those services.
Those services include elective invasive surgical procedures, tests and procedures that were delayed because of the virus, as well as annual in-person physical appointments for people who are not in high-risk categories.
"We continue to strongly encourage patients to seek medical care for any urgent healthcare needs as we have seen patients in need of serious medical attention who have waited too long to visit the hospital," a statement from the organization said.
Senator Julian A. Cyr, who heads the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force, said the ability for the state to move from one phase to another is dependent upon personal responsibility of people in the commonwealth. Looking ahead to the summer on Cape Cod, Sen. Cyr said that he is cautiously optimistic that the seasonal economy will bounce back; it just might take some time.
With the governor's guidelines, the earliest that restaurants will be able to open for dine-in service will be Monday, June 8. The same date is the earliest that hotels will be able to open for tourists.
At a news conference on Tuesday, May 19, Sandwich Chamber of Commerce director Denise Dever expressed frustration with the fact that big box stores such as Walmart and Target—deemed essential businesses—have remain open for all of their services, but small businesses on the Cape are not able to open to customers.
Sen. Cyr said that he agreed with that sentiment, but that the Cape is still held to the same standards as the state.