BOSTON (WHDH) - Construction sites, manufacturing businesses, and places of worship have been given the green light to immediately reopen with strong restrictions under Phase 1 of Massachusetts’ four-phased plan to a “New Normal,” Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday. Baker also issued a new “safer-at-home” advisory to protect vulnerable individuals who are susceptible to contracting coronavirus.
“Today we lay out a roadmap to reopen Massachusetts while we continue to fight COVID-19,” Baker said during a news conference at the State House.
The worksites, businesses, and places of worship that can begin to reopen on May 18 must comply with mandatory safety standards and recommended best practices in social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting, Baker explained.
“The guidance developed on this was very particular and very clear,” Baker said.
Hospitals and community health centers have also been permitted to immediately resume providing high priority preventative care, pediatric care, and treatment for high-risk patients, according to Baker.
Essential businesses that have been open since the start of the coronavirus pandemic will continue to operate just as they have been.
In order to reopen, non-essential businesses must develop a written “COVID-19 Control Plan” outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Baker also announced that the state’s stay-at-home advisory has been lifted in favor of a safer-at-home advisory.
“We are going to ask people once again to rise to the occasion as we continue to fight this virus,” Baker said.
People over the age of 65 and those who have underlying health conditions who are at high risk for COVID-19 should continue to stay home except for essential errands, such as going to the grocery store and to tend to healthcare needs, Baker said.
All Bay State residents are advised to leave their homes only for healthcare, worship, and permitted work, shopping, and outdoor activities.
Masks and face coverings must continue to be worn in public when safe social distancing rules cannot be followed.
Close contact activities, such as pick-up sports games, are not permitted until further notice. All residents are urged to continue to use remote modes of communication like phone or video chat instead of visiting friends or family. Parents are also being asked to limit their play dates for children.
Anyone who feels sick should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.
On May 25, as part of Phase 1, which has been dubbed “Start,” some lab and office spaces, hair salons, and barber shops, pet grooming businesses, car washes, and retail stores that offer remote fulfillment or curbside pickup can begin to reopen, Baker said. Some beaches, parks, drive-in theaters, and athletic fields and courts will also be permitted to reopen.
Some offices in Boston can start to reopen on June 1 but they must limit their capacity to 25 percent.
Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer before moving to the next phase, depending upon what public health data trends indicate, according to Baker.
“At least three weeks, but it could be more,” Baker told reporters. “Everyone needs to keep doing the things that they’ve been doing…to limit the spread of this virus.”
If COVID-19 positive test rates, deaths, hospitalizations, and testing capacity trend negative, then specific industries, regions, or the entire Commonwealth may be forced to return to an earlier phase.
“People need to continue to use their heads on this stuff and to recognize and understand that we are still at risk,” Baker said.
As of Monday, COVID-19 positive test rates and testing capacity were trending “positive.”
Things like dental offices, restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, playgrounds, public pools, youth sports leagues, and spas are listed under Phase 2 of the reopening plan, which is called “Cautious.”
Casinos, gyms, bars, fitness studios, and museums are listed under Phase 3 or “Vigilant.” Phase 4, also known as the “New Normal,” includes the opening of large venues and night clubs.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who led the effort in crafting the state’s reopening plan, said the key to “unlocking” a new phase will be wearing face coverings, maintaining good hygiene, practicing social distancing, and limiting gatherings to less than 10 people.
“It bears repeating that Massachusetts has been one of the hardest-hit states in our country,” Polito said. “Tough times never last, tough people do.”
Baker also reminded the public that the “game” is not yet over and stressed that a lot of work must still be done to curb the coronavirus outbreak because people are still dying and testing positive each day.
The state’s Reopening Advisory Board’s full report can be viewed below:
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