COVID-19: Massachusetts Governor Announces Reopening Approach and Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards

On May 11, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a four-phase approach to reopening the Massachusetts economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and published Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that will apply across all sectors and industries once reopening begins. Businesses and activities that provide COVID-19 Essential Services, as outlined in Governor Baker’s March 23rd Order, will continue to operate. Businesses and activities that do not provide COVID-19 essential services will remain closed through May 18, 2020, pursuant to the extension of the March 23rd Order.

Under the phased reopening plan, the Baker Administration will allow certain businesses, services, and activities to resume based on public health guidance to limit a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases. The four phases are as follows:

  • Phase 1 will be “Start:” limited industries resume operations with severe restrictions
  • Phase 2 will be “Cautious:” additional industries resume operations with restrictions and capacity limits
  • Phase 3 will be “Vigilant:” additional industries resume operations with guidance
  • Phase 4 will be the “New Normal:” development of vaccine and/or therapy enables resumption of new normal

Businesses and activities with a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission will open in earlier phases, and reopening decisions will be influenced by public health metrics, including when the first phase of reopening begins, as well as when it is safe to move into later phases. The administration cautioned that, if public health metrics worsen, the state may need to return to an earlier phase.

In addition to the four-phase reopening plan, the administration announced that the Department of Public Health has developed Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as employees and customers begin to return to workplaces during the first phase of reopening. These new standards will apply universally to all workplaces that are open in phase one and supplement earlier guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the CDC guidelines for workspaces.

The Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards include protocols for social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting. The administration also explained that the Reopening Advisory Board is developing sector-specific safety standards that will detail how particular industries should operate upon reopening, as well as provide for limited exceptions to the mandatory standards. Those sector-specific standards are expected to be released at a later date. The phased reopening plan did not address existing interstate travel restrictions or self-quarantine requirements, which may be addressed in forthcoming guidance.

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.