Legal Update

May 12, 2020

Massachusetts COVID-19 Update: Governor Outlines Four-Phased Approach to Reopening State's Economy

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Seyfarth Synopsis:  On May 11, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker outlined the state’s Four-Phased Approach to Reopening the Massachusetts economy, and provided Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards, which will apply to all workplaces when Phase 1 of the reopening plan begins.  Phase 1 may begin on May 18, 2020, provided the state meets certain public health metrics.

On May 11, 2020, Governor Baker announced a four-phased approach to reopening the Massachusetts economy after non-essential businesses have been shuttered for more than seven weeks.  The Governor also published an initial outline of the state’s Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards, which will apply across all sectors and industries once reopening begins.

Four-Phased Reopening Plan

As outlined below, the plan begins with a limited resumption of certain business activities.  Each phase will allow more businesses to reopen, and the plan will be in place until medical breakthroughs allow Massachusetts businesses to return to a “new normal.”

  1. Start: Limited industries will resume operations with severe COVID-19 related restrictions.  The industries enabled to reopen under Phase 1 will be those that are more naturally able to limit face-to-face interactions and close contact.
  2. Cautious: Additional industries will resume operations with COVID-19 related restrictions and workplace capacity limits.
  3. Vigilant: Additional industries will resume operations with guidance and a potential softening of COVID-19 restrictions.
  4. New Normal: The development of a vaccine and/or therapies to treat COVID-19 will enable the state to move to a new normal.

The Governor did not announce which industries will be able to resume operations during the Start phase or later phases.  Businesses and organizations currently designated as providing COVID-19 Essential Services under the Governor’s March 23, 2020 Order are allowed to continue operating.  Public health metrics will determine when the first phase of reopening begins, and when it will be safe to move into later phases.  The Governor also noted on Monday that if conditions worsen, the state may need to return to an earlier phase.

Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards

The Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board have also developed Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards, which are aimed at reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission when businesses begin to reopen their doors.  These standards will apply to all sectors and industries that will be open during Phase 1, and include the following:

  • Requiring face coverings or masks for all employees;
  • Establishing protocols and providing signage to ensure adequate social distancing;
  • Providing training for employees regarding social distancing and hygiene protocols;
  • Establishing a plan for employees who become ill from COVID-19 at work, and a return-to-work plan; and
  • Providing regular sanitization of high-touch areas, such as workstations, equipment, screens, doorknobs, and restrooms throughout the workplace.

The Reopening Advisory Board will supplement these standards with Sector Specific Safety Protocols and Best Practices that will provide more information regarding how particular industries should operate upon reopening.  The Advisory Board is expected to provide a full report to the Governor on May 18, 2020.  We will keep you informed as to any significant developments.