COVID-19 UpdatesHCN News & Notes

Baker-Polito Administration Announces Four-phase Strategy for Reopening Economy

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced a four-phase approach to reopening the Massachusetts economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and published mandatory workplace-safety standards that will apply across all sectors and industries once reopening begins.

The goal of the phased reopening, announced on May 11 and 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.

• Phase 1 will be ‘start’: limited industries resume operations with severe restrictions.

• Phase 2 will be ‘cautious’: additional industries resume operations with restrictions and capacity limits.

• Phase 3 will be ‘vigilant’: additional industries resume operations with guidance.

• Phase 4 will be the ‘new normal’: development of a vaccine and/or therapy enables careful resumption of full activity.

Businesses and activities that provided ‘COVID-19 essential services,’ per Gov. Charlie Baker’s March 23 order, will continue to operate. Certain businesses and activities with a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission will open in earlier phases. Decisions and timing will be influenced by public-health metrics for when the first phase of reopening begins, as well as when it is safe to move into concurrent phases. If public health metrics worsen, the state may need to return to an earlier phase.

Additionally, the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the COVID-19 Command Center, in consultation with the Reopening Advisory Board and based on feedback from industry, labor, and community coalitions, has developed Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as employees and customers begin to return to workplaces during the first phase of reopening. These standards are applicable to all sectors and industries that will be open in phase 1, and create new workplace requirements for social distancing, hygiene, staffing and operations, and cleaning. These standards are being released to give workplaces time to plan and prepare for reopening.

For social distancing, all people, including employees, customers, and vendors, should remain at least six feet apart to the greatest extent possible, both inside and outside workplaces. Businesses should establish protocols to ensure employees can practice adequate social distancing, provide signage for safe social distancing, and require face coverings or masks for all employees.

For hygiene, businesses should provide hand-washing capabilities throughout the workplace, ensure frequent hand washing by employees and adequate supplies to do so, and provide regular sanitization of high-touch areas, such as work stations, equipment, screens, doorknobs, and restrooms throughout the worksite.

For staffing and operations, businesses should provide training for employees regarding social-distancing and hygiene protocols. Employees who are displaying COVID-19-like symptoms should not report to work, and a return-to-work plan should be established.

For cleaning and disinfecting, businesses should 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 that workplace.

The Reopening Advisory Board is scheduled to provide its full report to Baker on Monday, May 18.