What can reopen in Massachusetts? Baker offers new guidance as state enters Phase 1


BOSTON (WPRI) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released new information Monday on which businesses and services will be able to reopen during the first phase of his administration’s plan to get the state’s economy back on track.

Baker also issued a new “Safer At Home” advisory which directs residents to stay home unless they are going to a newly opened facility or activity. The governor noted that people over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions should continue to stay home except for essential needs such as groceries and medical care.

“If we don’t keep up the fight, and don’t do the things that we all know we have to do, and know we can do, we run the risk of creating a second spike in the fall,” Baker noted.

On Monday, the Mass. Department of Public Health reported 65 more people died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the total to 5,862, as the cumulative number of cases climbed to more than 87,000.

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

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Beginning Monday, May 18, manufacturing facilities and construction sites can resume operations with safety protocols in place.

Places of worship are also able to reopen with guidelines that require social distancing and encourage services to be held outdoors.

Hospitals and community health centers that attest to specific public health and safety standards can begin to provide high priority preventative care, pediatric care and treatment for high-risk patients.

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Massachusetts reopening Phase 1
Reopening Massachusetts in Phases

Baker announced other businesses and services will be permitted to open on Monday, May 25, under a staggered approach. This includes:

  • Limited personal services, including: hair salons, pet grooming, car washes
  • Lab space
  • Office space
  • Beaches
  • Parks
  • Drive-in movie theaters
  • Select athletic fields and courts
  • Most fishing, hunting and boating
  • Outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, and public installations.

Guidance for specific industries » | Read the full plan »

Baker said businesses are not required to reopen, and may not do so if they are unable to follow safety protocols. Businesses must develop a written a COVID-19 Control Plan outlining how the workplace will prevent the spread of the virus.

Moving between phases will take at least three weeks, according to Baker, and will be based on public health data including the COVID-19 positivity rate, hospitalizations, health care system readiness, testing capacity, and contract-tracing capabilities.

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Child Care:

Child care and summer camps will reopen in a phased approach with guidelines developed by the Departments of Public Health and Early Education and Care.

To start, the main focus will be on families who have no safe alternative to group care. The emergency child care system that’s been supporting essential workers since March is only at 35% capacity, according to Baker, so that will be used to help families with no alternatives.


​In order to open and operate, all Massachusetts businesses will need to meet the Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards and sector-specific protocols.

​The state has developed a guide to educate business owners on what supplies are needed to return to workplaces, and a portal to connect businesses with manufacturers and distributors.

Educational materials will be provided to define how an employer should prepare their workspaces to reopen and what products are appropriate for employees to protect themselves at work. While face coverings are critical, medical-grade face coverings are not necessary for non-health care workers.

Mass.gov: Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces » | PPE Procurement and Donation Program »

Health Care:

In order for the phased-in hospital expansion and non-hospital reopening, the following statewide metrics must be met:

  • 30% of hospital ICU beds (including staffed surge capacity) must be available
  • 30% of total hospital beds (including staffed surge capacity) must be available

Health care providers must meet the following requirements to reopen or expand services:

  • Attesting to public health standards and specific guidelines
  • Ensuring adequate personal protective equipment is on hand, reliable supply chain and other supplies and policies in place
  • Infection control readiness (workflow, cleaning, social distancing, etc.)
  • Workforce and patient screening and testing protocols
  • Hospitals must have greater than or equal to 25% ICU and total bed capacity and reopen pediatric ICU and psychiatric beds if they had been repurposed for surge capacity


The MBTA has been and will continue to implement measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the system to keep employees and riders safe. 

Working together, the MBTA, riders and employers can significantly reduce that risk: 

  • ​Riders are required to wear face coverings and must make efforts to distance. Riders are asked to avoid riding transit if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
  • Employers are encouraged to stagger schedules and implement work from home policies to reduce demand, especially during rush hours
  • The MBTA will continue to take protective and preventative measures such as frequently disinfecting and cleaning vehicles and stations and providing protective supplies to workers

To lessen the risk while providing appropriate levels of service, the MBTA will: 

  • ​Support the transit needs of essential workers and those returning to the workplace in Phase 1 while continuing with limited service to maximize employee and rider safety
  • Ramp up to a modified version of full service by Phase 3, although social distancing efforts will limit effective capacity on vehicles even after full-service schedules are restored
  • Actively communicate public health guidance and schedule adjustments in-station, online, and over social media

Schools and Higher Education:

Schools will continue offering essential non-educational services to their communities. Plans are being discussed for summer school programs and the 2020-21 school year.

Massachusetts’ diverse higher education institutions continue to foster teaching, learning, student support, and essential research remotely throughout this time. They are working together and in partnership with the state to ensure a safe and gradual return to campus life.

In the upcoming weeks, institutions will develop customized reopening plans with the safety of their communities in mind.

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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.

Coronavirus: Latest Headlines

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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