By Lauren Bennett
Governor Charlie Baker on Monday announced a four-phased approach to reopening the state, as well as released Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that all industries will follow.
“The goal of the phased reopening, based on public health guidance, is to methodically allow certain businesses, services, and activities to resume, while protecting public health and limiting a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases,” the state said.
Phase 1, called “Start,” means that limited industries—ones that are “more naturally set up,” according to Baker, would be allowed to open with “severe restrictions.” Phase 2, called “Cautious,” means that more industries can open “with restrictions and capacity limits.” Phase 3, called “Vigilant,” means that even more industries can “resume operations with guidance,” and Phase 4, called the “New Normal,” includes a development of a vaccine or therapy and “enables resumption of new normal.”
Baker said at a press conference on Monday that “all phases will be contingent upon the public health data.” He said that the goal is to begin implementing this plan on May 18, but added that “the facts on the ground will determine whether or not we actually hit that goal.”
Baker said on Monday that the state’s Reopening Advisory Board had met with stakeholders from 44 different industries and sectors, representing more than 110,000 businesses and over two million workers, in industries like dentistry, museums, sports, arts, entertainments, fitness, cannabis, labor unions, hair salons, and more.
Additionally, he said that the board has received written comments from more than 2200 employers and organizations.
He said that a more detailed plan about which industries fit into which phase will be released in the coming days.
“This is no time to quit,” Baker said, especially “when we don’t have real certainties” about how the virus changes and reacts.
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito talked about the Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards on Monday, explaining that “all workplaces that are allowed to operate will be required to implement these mandatory workplace safety standards.”
These standards include things like social distancing in the workplace, installing social distancing signage in the workplace, and requiring all employees to wear face coverings or masks, Polito said.
For hygiene, the standards include frequent hand washing and regular sanitization of high touch areas, as well as including a place for hand washing in the workplace that is adequately stocked with soap.
Polito also said that cleaning protocols “specific to the business” must be established and maintained, and if an employee contracts COVID-19, the workplace must be cleaned and disinfected.
“As we move towards a new normal, we all have a lot of work to do,” Polito said. “I am confident that when we reopen, we will do so in a safe manner for all the people of this Commonwealth.”
Community Health Centers Public Awareness Campaign
On May 8, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the creation of a new COVID-19 public awareness campaign titled “New Tools, New Rules—Same Great Care” in partnership with the Mass League of Community Health Centers.
“Community Health Centers throughout the Commonwealth are open and accepting patients, and this campaign encourages residents to continue to seek care for their medical conditions and reminds individuals not to delay treatment as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the state said on May 8.
“In additional to implementing additional, onsite safety protocols, many Community Health Centers have introduced and expanded telehealth care options. Furthermore, MassHealth contracts with three telehealth providers to offer additional support for members with questions about symptoms that might be related to COVID-19.”
Ads for the campaign will run for free on WCVB in the Greater Boston area, as well as digitally on Facebook in “English, Spanish, and other languages, and will specifically target regions with the highest populations of families in need of services,” a release from the state said.
Baker on Tuesday announced that he filed a supplemental bill authorizing around $1 billion for costs related to COVID-19, including the purchasing of PPE, “rate adjustments for providers of congregate care and other essential human services,” temporary field hospitals across the state, the Community Tracing Collaborative, and other expenses.
He said that the money would likely be reimbursed by federal aid programs such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), among others. He said he looks forward to working with the state legislature on enacting this bill.
Baker continues to provide updates on the Community Tracing Collaborative that began on April 12 and stressed the importance of answering these phone calls if you receive one. “Contact tracers will only reach out from phone numbers with 833 or 857 area codes, and the phone’s caller ID will say MA COVID Team,” according to the state.
As of May 7, the Community Tracing Collaborative has reached almost 14,000 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and established over 7,500 of their contacts. Baker said that the average number of contacts per confirmed case is two.
On May 11, he said that the state is “continuing to monitor daily trends” in COVID-19 data. “We believe we are trending in the right direction,” he added. Baker also said that 10 million pieces of PPE have now been distributed across the Commonwealth.
On Tuesday, Baker said that “while these recent numbers have been encouraging, we’re not yet out of the woods and we should all remember that.”
As of May 11, Massachusetts had 78,462 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 5,108 people had died.