Client Alert: Plans for the First Phase of Reopening the Massachusetts Economy

May 19, 2020

On Monday May 18, 2020, Governor Baker issued guidelines for the phased reopening of the Massachusetts economy.  Information about the phases and requirements to be met can be found here. Please be sure to check the MA website regularly as updates are likely to be made at each phase.

Phase 1 – Begins May 18th

In Phase 1, Manufacturing, Construction and Houses of Worship can open as early as May 18, 2020 provided they are able to comply with all of the health and safety guidelines from the Commonwealth, including developing and self-certifying a mandatory COVID-19 plan, poster and signage (the “Reopening Guidelines”) (samples of which are on the state website).  Specific guidelines are available for each industry sector in Phase 1 . It is expected that the information for other business sectors will be available in advance of the reopening date for that sector (date TBD).

If you are already an essential business, you generally have until May 25, 2020 to meet these standards in order to remain open (unless otherwise provided in the sector specific guidance).

Starting May 25th

Starting May 25, 2020, offices outside Boston, laboratories and certain other businesses will be permitted to open provided they comply with the Reopening Guidelines for the particular business. (Offices in Boston will be permitted to open on June 1 provided they meet the Reopening Guidelines).  The Plan and the checklist are located here.

For those businesses not included in Phase 1, the Commonwealth suggests that you access the general workplace standards to get a head start on working on a plan. The office specific guidelines can be found here.

Restrictions and Reopening Guidelines:

  • Businesses and other organizations shall limit occupancy within their office space to no more than 25 percent of (a) the maximum occupancy level specified in any certificate of occupancy or similar permit or as provided for under the state building code; or (b) the business or organization’s typical occupancy as of March 1, 2020. Any business or other organization that has been operating as a “COVID-19 Essential Service” as of May 18, 2020 shall have until July 1, 2020 to comply with these occupancy limitations.
  • Businesses and other organizations may exceed this maximum occupancy level based on a demonstrated need for relief based on public health or public safety considerations or where strict compliance may interfere with the continued delivery of critical services.
  • Businesses are also encouraged to stagger shifts to avoid congestion on public transportation and in elevators at peak times.
  • Workers must also wear face coverings when they cannot remain at least 6 feet apart.

The state emphasized that they continue to request that businesses support working from home wherever possible, especially for employees over age 65 or with underlying health conditions. Note that public transportation will be on a limited schedule for the first opening phase. More information will be available in the coming days on other industries (such as restaurants).

The Governor made clear that he expects all businesses to follow these guidelines, which will be enforced by the local boards of health. We expect further clarification and guidance as time goes on.