Phase Two Re-Opening to Begin Monday

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Phase Two Re-Opening to Begin Monday

Economy HR & Employment Law News | June 6, 2020
By: Brooke Thomson

Retail stores, restaurants, hotels, warehouses, day-care centers and other businesses will begin to open their doors under strict safety guidelines Monday as Massachusetts begins the second stage of re-opening.

Governor Charlie Baker said Saturday that the commonwealth’s efforts to moderate the effects of COVID-19 have progressed enough to start the Phase Two. The announcement was welcomed by business leaders seeking to emerge from a pandemic-induced shutdown that has left 1.2 million Massachusetts residents filing for unemployment benefits.

“Phase Two represents another important milestone in the commonwealth’s deliberate re-opening of the state economy,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

“The earlier re-opening of manufacturing and construction companies has already boosted business confidence and that is good for employers and workers alike.”

Baker last week issued an Executive Order that provided a detailed list of businesses and activities that fall into Phases II, III, and IV of the Re-Opening Plan. The Executive Order permitted Phase II businesses to reopen their physical workplaces to workers only to conduct necessary preparations prior to the start of Phase II.

Activity has since been evident in retail stores, hotels and restaurants throughout the commonwealth as businesses worked to implement sector-specific protocols and comply with Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards.

Also on Monday, health-care providers may incrementally resume in-person elective, non-urgent procedures and services, including routine office visits, dental visits and vision care subject to compliance with public health and safety standards. All other in-person medical, behavioral health, dental and vision services may also resume on Monday, except for elective cosmetic procedures and in-person day programs, which will be included in Phase III.

View Updated List of Enterprises in Phases II, III and IV

Retailers

Retail stores will transition from curbside pickup and delivery-only to browsing and in-store transactions.

Social distancing guidance requires each retail store to monitor customer entries and exits and limit occupancy at all times to either eight persons (including store staff) per 1,000 square feet of accessible, indoor space, or 40 percent of the retail store’s maximum permitted occupancy, whichever is greater.

Grocery stores and retail stores with pharmacy services must provide at least one hour of dedicated time for adults 60 years of age and older, while all stores are encouraged to offer exclusive hours or other accommodations for high-risk populations.

For staffing, stores should adjust workplace hours and shifts, including leveraging staggered arrival/ departure, to minimize contact among workers and allow for on-going and off-hour sanitation and cleaning. Stores should also conduct frequent disinfecting of heavy transit areas and high-touch surfaces.

Operators of enclosed shopping malls and other indoor, multi-tenant retail spaces must monitor customer and worker entries and exits to common areas and limit occupancy of common areas at all times to 40 percent of maximum permitted occupancy levels. Mall amenities such as seating in food courts, children’s play areas, and arcades must remain closed, while mall food vendors and restaurants may only provide take-out or delivery service.

Retailers that have been defined as providing Essential Services pursuant to COVID-19 Order No. 13 will be required to comply with these sector-specific safety protocols within one week.

For full retail business guidance, click here.

Restaurants

Restaurants may provide outdoor dining service with restrictions. Assuming continued positive progression of public-health data, indoor dining may be authorized by a subsequent order during Phase II.

In order to provide improved opportunities for outdoor table service, the governor’s order provides flexibility to local licensing authorities to approve changes for any type of license that permits the sale of alcoholic beverages for on- premises consumption. In both outdoor and indoor dining cases, restaurants will be required to comply with sector-specific COVID-19 workplace safety practices restaurants.

Lodging

Ballrooms, meeting rooms, function halls, and all other indoor or outdoor event facilities must remain closed.  Lodging operators are not permitted to host weddings, business events, or other organized gatherings of any kind.

On-site restaurants, pools, gyms, spas, golf courses, and other amenities co-located with the lodging operation may operate under sector-specific reopening guidelines and protocols, only as these sectors become authorized to operate elsewhere in the commonwealth. Lodging operators must consult the Massachusetts Reopening website to review these additional sector-specific safety standards.

Lodging operators must inform guests at the time a reservation is made and at check-in of the Commonwealth’s policy urging travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving in Massachusetts from out of state.

Operators of unstaffed, individual unit lodging facilities such as short-term home or apartment rentals are required to comply with the hygiene standards specified below including cleaning requirements and minimum periods of separation between rentals.

Child Care

Child-care facilities, recreational summer camps and youth programs will be allowed to open once they have submitted plans with the Department of Early Education and Care detailing health and safety protocols, including for food service and transportation. The department laid out its minimum requirements for health and safety, including a provision that limits groups to a maximum of 12 (including two adults) and a requirement that the various groups of children at a facility do not intermingle.

Early educators are pushing back on the safety guidelines, saying the socially distant classrooms they’re being told to re-open will be far more costly to operate, less welcoming to youngsters, and perhaps completely unworkable.

Preschool classrooms that previously accommodated 20 children will be limited to 10. Strict limits on interaction will prevent teachers and aides from floating between rooms, keeping them dedicated to the same group of children all day, every day, and possibly necessitating new hires.

Sports

Organizers of amateur sports programs for youths and adults may open their premises to staff only to make preparations in advance of the start of Phase II.  In addition to requiring generally applicable COVID-19 workplace standards, the order specifies that during Phase II organized sports programs will operate under the following provisions:

  • Limiting traditional contact sports to no-contact drills and practices;
  • Prohibiting games, scrimmages, and tournaments;
  • Separating participants to into groups of 10 or fewer;
  • Restricting the use of indoor athletic facilities to supervised sports programs and sport camps for youths under the age of 18.

Sector-specific guidance for youth and adult amateur sports programs will be issued in the coming days.  Subject to the implementation of COVID-19 health and safety rules adopted by respective leagues, the order permits professional sports organizations to reopen their premises to employees and other workers for practices and training. Professional sports organizations, however, are not allowed to engage in inter-team games and sporting facilities will remain closed to the public.

  • Please contact Ms. Thomson (bthomson@aimnet.org) or any member of the AIM Government Affairs team with feedback regarding the new regulations.
  • Download AIM Phase One FAQ to learn more about safety measures that are applicable to all businesses including the need for a written plan, posters and hygiene protocols, including training.
  • Register for AIM’s Phase Two Re-Opening Webinar on June 10.
  • AIM’s Return to the Workplace Guide will be updated next week to include regulations for Phase Two companies.
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