COVID-19: Massachusetts Governor Announces Phase One of Reopening Plan

On May 18, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released the Reopening Advisory Board’s Reopening Massachusetts Plan, effectuated by Order 33, commencing Phase One of the Commonwealth’s four-phase approach to reopening the Massachusetts economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement followed the Governor’s May 11th release of the broader outline for the four-phase plan for reopening, including new Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards to apply to all workplaces.

Under Phase One of the Reopening Plan, listed businesses and organizations may begin opening on May 18 and May 25. The Essential Services list, updated on March 31, remains current and in effect. Essential businesses already operating must certify compliance with applicable safety standards by May 25. Further, hospitals and community health centers can, upon attestation, provide high priority preventive care, pediatric care, and treatment for high risk patients and conditions. Beaches are currently only open for transitory activity, such as walking or biking, and with no parking, but will reopen for Memorial Day for more widespread activity in groups no larger than ten with strict social distancing and masking requirements. Phase One does not include any changes to the operation of public transportation and maintains the 14-day self-quarantine instructions for travelers to Massachusetts.

In Phase One, the following businesses and activities will be able to open on May 18, subject to general and specific safety standards:

In addition, the following businesses and activities will be able to open on May 25, subject to general and specific safety standards:

  • Laboratories
  • Office Spaces (but not until June 1 for Boston)
  • Limited personal services, including hairpet grooming, and carwashes
  • Retail and libraries (for curbside pick-up transactions only)
  • Auto dealers and wholesalers
  • Beaches, parks, and drive-in theaters
  • Some athletic fields, courts, and outdoor activities
  • Most fishing, hunting and boating, outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, and public installations
  • Additional health care providers

In addition to sector-specific standards, Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards are applicable to all sectors and industries, and include guidance on social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting. These standards are supplemented by sector-specific safety protocols, as noted above, providing further details and limited exceptions. These standards supplement earlier guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the CDC guidelines for workspaces. All businesses and organizations that are authorized to reopen will be required to complete self-certification to verify compliance with general and specific rules, and to post applicable public notices and advisories. Self-certification and public notice forms will be published by the Director of Labor Standards. The Department of Labor Standards and Department of Public Health will have authority to implement and enforce applicable workplace safety rules.

Under the later stages of the phased reopening plan, the Baker Administration will allow certain additional businesses, services, and activities to resume based on public health guidance. Additional details released on May 18 concerning the later three of the four phases are as follows:

  • Phase 2 reopenings may include: indoor retail and library browsing, outdoor recreation and day camps, outdoor performances, youth sports, auto dealer showrooms, restaurant dining areas, behind-the-wheel driving education, hotels and accommodations for the general public, and additional personal services (including nail salons, day spas, massage therapy, tattoo parlors, and electrolysis studios).
  • Phase 3 reopenings may include: residential camps, amusement parks, bars, gyms and fitness studios, indoor recreation, sightseeing tours, movie theaters, museums, performance venues, and flight schools.
  • Phase 4 reopenings may include: large venues.

In addition, a comprehensive tourism plan is being developed and will be released at a later date. A summary of business openings by phase is available here. Businesses and activities that do not provide COVID-19 Essential Services or fall under Phase One will remain closed, pursuant to the extension of the March 23 Closure Order. Decisions about when to implement later stages of the phased opening plan will be influenced by public health metrics. The Administration cautioned that, if public health metrics worsen, the plan may need to return to an earlier phase.

Pierce Atwood’s COVID-19 Response Team continues to track all executive orders issued for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Baker Administration. For a complete list, please visit our related coverage, available here. We also have a quick reference guide on New England closure orders that is updated on a regular basis, available here.

For questions on these latest orders, please contact Pierce Atwood attorneys Kate Hamann or Melanie Conroy.


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