At his daily press conference Monday, Governor Charlie Baker announced his administration’s first phase of a four phase plan to start reopening some of the state’s businesses and activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Monday the state had 86,010 COVID-19 cases with 5.797 deaths from the virus. Gov. Baker said part of the state’s Phase 1 strategy is a “Safer At Home” Advisory that instructs residents to stay at home unless engaging with newly opened activities, as a way to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19. He said the cautious reopening, and workplaces that are permitted to open are required to follow new strict safety protocols and guidance.
In Eastie, under Phase I manufacturing facilities, like Eastie-based Sterlingwear of Boston, and construction sites at various halted development projects in the neighborhood were allowed to open Monday with applicable guidelines.
Hospitals and community health centers like the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center 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.
Eastie’s churches and other places of worship will be able to open with guidelines that require social distancing and encourage services to be held outdoors.
“The announcement by the Governor this morning that the Commonwealth was beginning the process of re-opening is welcome news,” said the Archdiocese of Boston in a statement Monday. “The Archdiocese has consistently stated we will work collaboratively with local and state officials during this crisis and we will continue to comply with their guidance and mandates devised to restart community activity while continuing to fight the virus and keep people safe.”
The Archdiocese added that shortly after the Governor’s announcement they communicated a series of steps to Eastie parishes that they must follow to adhere to both the state and Church requirements to re-open. The guidance, established by a working committee of priests, deacons and laity, gave the greenlight for parishes to resume Mass as of Saturday, May 23.
“No matter what option a parish chooses, the pastor must be able to ensure that the size of the congregation in the church is not more than 40 percent of capacity and not more than the church can fit with social distancing maintained,” said the statement. “If a parish learns that a person who has come to Mass has tested positive for COVID-19, it must notify the Local Board of Health (LBOH) in the city or town in which the church is located and assist the LBOH as reasonably requested to trace likely contacts and advise contacts to isolate and self-quarantine.”
Baker added that under a staggered approach, additional Phase 1 sectors of the economy will be permitted to open effective May 25 in Eastie including: lab space; hair salons, pet grooming, car washes; and retail stores with remote order fulfillment and curbside pick-up.
However, office buildings within the City of Boston will remain closed until June 1.
Also permitted to open on May 25 with applicable guidelines are: beaches, like Constitution Beach; drive-in movie theaters; select athletic fields and courts; many outdoor adventure activities; most fishing, hunting, and boating; outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, and public installations.
However, the Governor warned that each phase of the state’s cautious reopening will last three weeks and will be guided by public health data and key indicators. The state will continually monitor health data for progress and that data will be used to determine advancement to future phases.
If there’s an increase in COVID-19 cases due to Phase 1 there’s a chance the state would have to revert back to the way life has been for the past two months. If the state successfully moves from Phase 1 to Phase 2 in three weeks but data shows COVID increases, the state would revert back to Phase 1 guidelines.
In order to reopen, businesses must develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Required materials are located on mass.gov/reopening, and include detailed sector-specific circulars and checklists to facilitate compliance.