Local Businesses Reopen With Restrictions

Massachusetts citizens have been anxiously awaiting May 18—the date to which the state’s stay-at-home order was extended—for Governor Charlie Baker’s debrief on plans to reopen amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Baker took on a more optimistic, yet cautious, tone on Monday as he announced the state’s transition into the first phase of the four phase plan intended to gradually reopen businesses across the state. 

The beginning stages of phase one became effective on May 18 and include: the resumption of construction and manufacturing as well as services in houses of worship. Attendance in houses of worship is to be limited to 40 percent capacity. Resuming both of the aforementioned activities for a prolonged period of time is contingent upon the continued practice of proper social distancing and the avoidance of a spike in COVID-19 cases.

 On May 25, office spaces, hair salons, barbershops and retail stores can reopen with some restrictions. Office spaces in Boston will not be permitted to open until June 1 and retail stores will be required to provide curbside pick-up, as opposed to in-store shopping. Likewise, strict regulations have been set for hair salons and barbershops: chairs must be arranged at least six feet apart; workers must wear gloves, gowns or smocks and some form of protective eye-covering; everyone present must wear a face-covering; each customer must be given a clean cape to wear throughout the appointment; non-essential amenities, such as magazines must be removed.

“No activity in Hair Salons or Barbershops shall occur without meeting these sector specific COVID-19 workplace safety standards for Hair Salons and Barbershops. These standards apply to all Hair Salons and Barbershops until rescinded or amended by the State. The owner of the Hair Salon or Barbershop shall be responsible for meeting these standards,” the official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Mass.gov, stated. 

Some local businesses set to reopen to some capacity on May 25 are: Salon Beni, Dynasty Barber Shop, Joe’s Barber Shop, East Street Salon, Advanced Skin Care and Hair Removal Center and more. 

Hopefully, Massachusetts will progress into the second stage of reopening, which will arrive—at earliest—three weeks after the initiation of phase one. However, such a progression is dependent upon the current trends of decreases in hospitalizations and positive COVID-19 tests continuing. 

“If public health data trends are negative, specific industries, regions, and/or the entire Commonwealth may need to return to an earlier phase,” Mass.gov stated.

Phase two would usher in the reopening of retail businesses, restaurants and nail salons. Next, phase three will allow businesses geared towards entertainment—gyms, bars and casinos—to open. Finally, phase four is intended to establish a new normal as activities in large venues will be able to resume. 

The framework for the four phases was constructed to establish an equilibrium between economic benefits and minimizing public health risk. The earlier stages yield high economic benefits and pose minimal public health risk, assuming that guidelines are followed strictly and prove effective. Nonetheless, face masks will likely linger for the foreseeable future even as local communities restore their routines.