Arent Fox

On March 23, 2020, Governor Baker issued an executive order closing the “brick and mortar” operations of all non-essential businesses. Nearly two months later, on May 18, he announced his four-part plan to “reopen” the Massachusetts economy.
The four phases of the reopening plan are as follows:
  1. Start: Limited industries resume operations with severe restrictions;
  2. Cautious: Additional industries resume operations with restrictions and capacity limitations;
  3. Vigilant: Additional industries resume operations with guidance; and
  4. New Normal: Development of vaccines and/or treatments enable resumption of "new normal."

Each phase of the reopening plan will last a minimum of three weeks, and the transition to the next phase will be driven by six public health indicators:

  1. COVID-19 positive test rate;
  2. Number of individuals who have died from COVID-19;
  3. Number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals;
  4. Healthcare system readiness;
  5. Testing capacity; and
  6. Contact tracing capabilities.

There is no explicit trigger based on anything beyond healthcare metrics, such as economic activity (or a lack thereof). Even if the plan rolls out as hoped, Phase 1 would last until June 8, Phase 2 until June 29, Phase 3 until July 20, and Phase 4 would not be implemented until August 10. If these public health trends are negative, certain industries, regions, or the entire state may have to revert to an earlier phase.

Businesses will need to follow Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards – minimum safety standards designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. These standards include:

  • Requiring social distancing;
  • Implementing hygiene protocols;
  • Providing training to employees and sending sick employees home; and
  • Performing regular cleaning and disinfecting.

In the start phase, as of May 18, 2020, essential businesses (as identified in Governor Baker’s March 23 announcement), manufacturing, and construction may continue or begin operations. Critically, all essential businesses must self-certify that they are compliant with safety standards by no later than May 25.

Detailed protocols for these industries can be found here:

  • Construction: Requirements include using a site-specific COVID-19 officer, who must submit a daily report, creating site-specific risk analysis and safety plans, implementing a zero-tolerance policy for sick workers, requiring employee self-certification prior to each shift, and providing wash stations, among others.
  • Manufacturing: Requirements include ensuring separation of 6 feet or more between employees, installing visual distancing markers on workstations, staggering lunch and break times, utilizing face coverings for all workers, ensuring access to handwashing facilities, and logging everyone who comes in contact with the site, among others.

Effective May 25, the list of industries that may operate is expanded to include lab space, office space outside of the City of Boston, limited personal services such as hair, pet grooming, and car washes, and retail stores but utilizing remote fulfillment and curbside pick-up only.

Detailed protocols for each of these industries can be found here:

  • Office space: Requirements include limiting occupancy to 25%, ensuring separation of at least 6 feet between individuals, limiting meeting sizes, staggering work schedules, establishing and communicating a worksite specific COVID-19 Prevention Plan, and providing training to workers, among others.
  • Lab space: Requirements include reconfiguring areas where workers are likely to congregate, using physical partitions for areas that cannot be spaced out, ensuring access to handwashing facilities, and other cleaning products, avoiding the use of shared laboratory materials, and keeping cleaning logs, among others.
  • Hair salons and barbershops: Requirements include arranging chairs so that work areas are at least 6 feet apart, installing visual markers to encourage customers to remain at least 6 feet apart, requiring face coverings for all workers and customers, using clean capes for each customer, not sharing tools or supplies, and limiting services to hair services only, among others.
  • Car washes: Requirements include assigning workers to individually designated work areas, requiring face coverings for all workers, ensuring access to handwashing facilities, providing training to employees on car wash safety standards, and requiring customers to stay in their cars throughout the car wash process, among others.
  • Pet grooming: Requirements include supplying leashes to guide pets so there is no hand off of an owner’s leash at the time of service, forbidding customer inside the business facility, asking owners if anyone in the house has COVID-19 prior to accepting the pet, and disinfecting tools between customers, among others.

On June 1, office space in Boston may reopen, subject to the applicable guidelines identified above.

A full list of businesses that may reopen in the start phase can be found here. In order to reopen, businesses must develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan. Templates are available at, along with compliance attestation posters and posters outlining rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, cleaning, and disinfecting, which must be displayed by all reopened businesses.

More detailed information about the next phases in the plan, as well as sector-specific protocols provided by the Massachusetts government, will be released in advance of each phase.

For more information on the reopening plan, view the reopening report or visit the Massachusetts state website.