Baker-Polito Administration Announces Guidelines for Restaurants, Lodging Businesses Ahead of Phase Two

Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced on May 29 guidance for restaurants and lodging, ahead of Phase Two of the reopening plan. Baker is expected to “make an announcement and decision with respect to Phase Two” on June 6, he said.

“We are certainly seeing positive momentum in a number of areas,” Baker said. “People are starting to get back to work. Outdoor and recreation activities are coming back. We’re making progress, thanks to everyone doing their jobs now more than ever and we need to keep doing what works to kill and slow the virus.”

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced the new guidance for restaurants and lodging, adding that the workplace safety standards that will be required for these businesses are “organized around four distinct categories covering social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting.”

Polito said these guidelines are being released ahead of Phase Two “to give lodging facilities and restaurants time to prepare their operations, to get ready, and to do that in adherence to the general workplace safety standards that we had previously issued.”

Outdoor dining at restaurants will be allowed at the beginning of Phase Two, Polito said, and the State is working with legislators on accelerating the permitting process for outdoor dining.

Indoor dining will be allowed later on in Phase Two, “subject to the public health data,” she said. 

The guidance for restaurants and lodging which is posted on the Reopening Massachusetts website at mass.gov, includes protocols for social distancing and physical space, Polito said.

She announced that some of the highlights of the guidance for restaurants are: “tables must be positioned six feet apart, the maximum party size will be six people, use of outdoor space is encouraged even when indoor seating is allowed, and seating at bars is not allowed, “but bar areas may be reconstituted for table seating,” she said.

Additionally, hygiene and leaning protocols will be required, like having single use utensils or menus, or “strict sanitization guidelines” for these items.

Polito also said that “reservations or call ahead seating is recommended,” and “contactless payment, mobile ordering, or text on arrival for seating will also be encouraged.”

Restaurants should also provide training in these health and safety protocols to all employees, she added, and establishments will be temporarily closed if a there is a case of COVID-19.

Hotels, Motels, and Other Lodging Businesses

Guidance was also released for hotels, motels, and other lodging businesses, which will be allowed to resume operations in Phase Two.

“Safety standards apply to all forms of lodging: hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and short term residential rentals, including those arranged through online hosting platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo,” Polito said. She added that spaces like ballrooms and meeting rooms will still remain closed.

“Onsite restaurants, pools, gyms, spas, golf courses and other amenities at lodging sites may operate only as these categories are authorized to operate in accordance with our phased reopening plan,” Polito said. She also said that lodging operators must tell guests traveling to Massachusetts from out of state about the policy urging them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The guidance for lodging includes protocols for social distancing, hygiene, and keeping staff spread out during their shifts, Polito said. It also includes enhanced sanitization protocols in between guests, including cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, washing linens and bedspreads, and considering leaving rooms vacant for 24 hours between guests.

“In the event of a positive case of COVID-19, the room used by that guest may onnly be returned to service after undergoing an enhanced sanitization protocol in accordance with CDC guidelines,” Polito said.

“As we move forward in reopening our economy, we understand the importance of balancing public health and economic health and we need to do everything we can to support both,” she said. “Together with state and local governments we balance the shared goals of maintaining both public safety as well as getting our economy back up and running and as we navigate these next phases in our fight against COVID-19, we will continue to work with our industry partners to do what’s best for local main streets and downtowns.

I’m confident that the restaurant and lodging owners, managers, servers, bartenders and staff, and the many others who make up these industries will get back to work, will reopen their doors and their places to the residents across our Commonwealth and be able to offer the things from our places that people know and love so much in their communities and will do so as safely and as quickly as possible.”

Other Updates

Baker also announced on May 29 that the state is having “positive conversations” with sports teams, which will be allowed to begin practicing at their respective facilities on June 6 “with health and safety rules that all of the leagues are developing.”

Baker said that these facilities will continue to remain closed to the public, and that “the leagues are obviously working hard to host games again.”

He said that “pro sports would be a great thing to see again,” and would be a “significant milestone for all of us as fans,” however, “the opening will be gradual and will require a lot of patience from everyone.”

On June 1, Baker issued an Executive Order that lists specific types of businesses and activities that fall into the remaining phases of the reopening plan.

“Effective immediately, the Executive Order permits Phase II businesses to reopen their physical workplaces to workers only to conduct necessary preparations prior to the start of Phase II.  Preparations include but are not limited to completing a COVID-19 Control Plan, implementing sector-specific protocols, and complying with Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards,” according to the State.

“This lead time is important for preparations,” Baker said on June 1.

Retail stores will be allowed to have “browsing and in-store transactions with restrictions” at the beginning of Phase Two as well. Guidance for childcare, recreational summer camps, and organized sports programs was also released and is available in detail at mass.gov.

He also said that over the weekend, the COVID-19 Response Command Center also submitted details for an expanded COVID-19 testing proposal to the federal government, which includes increasing testing capacity and access to testing.

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