On Monday, May 18, Governor Charlie Baker launched Phase 1 of a statewide reopening plan.
However, Mayor Martin Walsh stressed that reopening does not mean “back to normal”—it means bringing caution and a commitment to stopping the spread of COVID-19 into workplaces and community spaces.
“Boston will continue to meet the needs of families, seniors, and small businesses, as well as continue to follow the science and public health guidance, while monitoring the data at the city and state levels,” he said.
Last week Walsh announced the Public Health Emergency declared on March 15 in the City of Boston remains in place until further notice. The same applies to the guidelines for physical distancing and face coverings, as well as the citywide recommended curfew of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
At a press conference last week the Mayor noted that Boston is one of the most densely populated cities in the country, which is home to a very diverse population, and doubles in size as a regional workforce enters its workplaces every weekday. Special precautions unique to Boston will need to be taken into account.
“The City will continue to focus on equity and meeting the needs of vulnerable communities, families with children, seniors, and small businesses,” said Walsh.
The biggest question on most businesses owners’ minds is how Boston will start to reopen East Boston’s small businesses that are tourist hotspots during the summer months.
Under the statewide plan retail stores are allowed to open for curbside pickup on May 25, as well as some services, including hair care and car washes.
“Boston’s approach is the City is ready to help small businesses create plans that not only meet state guidelines, but go beyond them,” said Walsh. “However, we are also urging caution. The Boston Transportation Department has helped facilitate safe curbside pickup for essential businesses, and will expand that work as needed. The City is also developing creative public space solutions for pedestrians in business districts.”
If businesses don’t feel comfortable opening the Mayor said the City will back them in that decision and continue to make services and resources available to them.
“The City will provide more information in the days and weeks ahead to help employers and community organizations stay safe and connected,” said Walsh. “Small business owners can reach out to our Office of Small Business.”
Walsh added that under the statewide plan office spaces will be allowed to open with 25 percent capacity starting on May 25 but Boston won’t take that step until June 1.
This timeline allows the City to work in collaboration with building owners and employers on safety plans that meet robust public health standards.
“Every employer must create and implement plans for workplaces to minimize the spread of the virus, as outlined by the State,” said Walsh. “The City is creating guidelines for offices to follow, based on national best practices and expert input.”
These guidelines include shift scheduling, work-from-home policies, physical spacing, PPE, cleaning protocols, ventilation, employee communication, and more.