Baker outlines phased approach to reopening Mass. economy; COVID-19 deaths top 5,100

Coronavirus

BOSTON (WPRI) — The COVID-19 death toll climbed past 5,000 in Massachusetts on Monday as state leaders continue to develop plans to get the economy moving again.

The Mass. Department of Public Health reported another 129 deaths among people who tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 5,108.

Only 669 new COVID-19 cases were found, which is the lowest number in weeks, but roughly 5,000 fewer tests were conducted than the previous day, presumably due to Sunday being Mother’s Day.

The percentage of patients currently hospitalized dropped to 4% over the weekend, according to the DPH.

Full breakdown of today’s COVID-19 data (Mass.gov) »

Encouraged by the downward trend in new cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled Monday the initial plans to gradually reopen the state’s economy. He said the goal is to methodically allow certain businesses, services and activities to resume operations with pubic safety remaining the top priority.

  • Phase 1: “Start” — limited industries resume operations with severe restrictions
  • Phase 2: “Cautious” — additional industries resume operations with restrictions and capacity limits
  • Phase 3: “Vigilant” — additional industries resume operations with guidance
  • Phase 4: “New Normal” — development of vaccine and/or therapy enables resumption of new normal

No specific industries were named.

All essential businesses and services will continue to operate, while certain businesses and activities with a “lower risk of COVID-19 transmission” will be allowed to reopen during the earlier phases, according to Baker.

He didn’t set an exact date for when Phase 1 will begin, saying the public health metrics will dictate that decision as well as when the state can move into further phases.

“The goal is to start this process on May 18, but it will be gradual and the facts on the ground will obviously determine whether we actually hit that goal,” Baker said.

More: Reopening Advisory Board May 11 presentation (Mass.gov) »

Baker also announced series of safety standards that must be followed by all workplaces given the go-ahead to reopen:

For social distancing:

  • All persons, including employees, customers, and vendors should remain at least six feet apart to the greatest extent possible, both inside and outside workplaces
  • Establish protocols to ensure that employees can practice adequate social distancing
  • Provide signage for safe social distancing
  • Require face coverings or masks for all employees

For hygiene:

  • Provide hand washing capabilities throughout the workplace
  • Ensure frequent hand washing by employees and adequate supplies to do so
  • Provide regular sanitization of high touch areas, such as workstations, equipment, screens, doorknobs, restrooms throughout work site

For staffing and operations:

  • Provide training for employees regarding the social distancing and hygiene protocols
  • Employees who are displaying COVID19-like symptoms do not report to work
  • Establish a plan for employees getting ill from COVID-19 at work, and a return-to-work plan

For cleaning and disinfecting:

  • Establish and maintain cleaning protocols specific to the business
  • When an active employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, cleaning and disinfecting must be performed
  • Disinfection of all common surfaces must take place at intervals appropriate to said workplace

The state’s Reopening Advisory Board has been tasked with providing its full report to Baker on Monday, May 18.

For more information on COVID-19 in Massachusetts, visit Mass.gov, call 211 or text COVIDMA or COVIDMAESP (Spanish) to 888-777 to receive text notifications.

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