Planning, impatience, confidence from stores, towns as state reopens
Towns are taking advantage of time to plan before they can reopen next week under new state guidelines. Some businesses are putting their hard-earned coronavirus strategies to good use, while others hoped for more freedoms.
Governor Charlie Baker outlined restrictions and additional allowances for coronavirus prevention on May 18 as part of a four phase plan that would bring the state to an eventual “new normal.”
Phase one, which starts May 18, includes a “safer at home,” plan which slightly loosens restrictions for residents, opens worship spaces, manufacturing, construction and some medical procedures, and provides a list of other industries that could open in a week.
Each of the phases will last roughly three weeks, though the state may linger or regress if confirmed cases or deaths rise too quickly.
Businesses already deemed essential when Baker closed the economy can continue operations and manufacturers can begin work (with social distancing or partitions between stations). In Rochester, Shea Concrete has continued work because they are essential and Hartley Sawmill Company because it is a one-man business.
Interior and exterior construction can begin again immediately, with a Covid-19 Officer on site to monitor for proper conditions.
Hospitals and community health centers can now provide high-priority preventative care, treatment for high-risk conditions and pediatric care. But Age Defied, the Marion geriatric physical therapy business, will have to wait until Phase 2 to reopen.
Places of worship will open at 40% capacity, with social distancing and masks required and outdoor services encouraged.
Starting on May 25, laboratories, pet groomers, car washes, beaches, parks, outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, public installations and drive-in theaters can reopen. Other industries can open with conditions: offices at 25% capacity, hair salons and barber shops only for hair cuts, retail stores and libraries with curbside pickup only, and some athletic fields and courts.
Tri-Town Barbershop will start booking appointments on May 19 for May 25 and beyond.
Lloyd’s Market has been able to stay open throughout the pandemic, and has refined its technique several times, meaning that this new phase will be “pretty much status quo,” according to owner Dan Costa. Customers are allowed in the store (with masks), or may ask for curbside pickup.
For other retail businesses, the announcement was not what they were expecting.
“It’s disappointing. I mean, they are opening hair salons. But, I get it, they have to be safe,” said Cecily Balboni, the owner of Serendipity by the Sea in Marion.
She has been running operations online only and said the key is showing customers what there is to buy. Balboni developed a non-contact method where she wears a mask, customers go in a back door, pick up a bag and she sanitizes everything afterwards.
“It’s a lot of work, but if someone is taking the time to support you, you want to keep them safe,” Balboni said.
Web giants like Amazon make online retail harder, because customers may be shown ads of the same products at lower prices.
Still, “this community has been very, very supportive. They have been awesome, way beyond my expectation,” Balboni said.
The state said employers should accommodate older employees or those with underlying health conditions. Customers and workers should report violations of safety standards to local Boards of Health for enforcement purposes. Boards of Health will set fines at the town level, and can enforce those after multiple visits and infractions, Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito said.
Many of the state’s recommendations for individuals remain the same: cover the nose and mouth in public, wash hands and sanitize surfaces often, keep six feet of distance where possible, watch for symptoms and stay home when sick.
Town offices and libraries will be allowed to open next week, and based on initial statements it seems they may need the time to plan.
“There was a great deal of information that was released by the State’s top leadership today and we have not had the opportunity to review it all,” wrote Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Lorenco.
Though uncertain of the specifics he gave a preview of what residents can expect after he, Selectmen and the Board of Health meet to plan.
“The public should expect to see some of the following: limited operating hours, curbside drop-offs and pickups, outdoor service windows (particularly at Town Hall), and stringent enforcement of the State’s required safety measures,” Lorenco wrote.
He said for now residents should call or email Town Hall, as it will be closed.
Marion Town Administrator Jay McGrail declined to give details until he was able to work out a plan to reopen.
Other town organizations, like libraries, are working on plans to reopen with town administrators.
“While the Governor has offered some guidelines, I think what we do locally will be determined, in part, by the advice of local health officials and town leaders. So, I need a lot more information before I have an actual timeline for services,” said Susan Pizzolato, Director at the Mattapoisett Public Library.
Currently, Pizzolato works at the library to receive deliveries, while staff work remotely on reopening procedures.
To reopen, they will need to rearrange workspaces, wear masks, offer book bundles (genre-specific offerings left outside the library door) first, followed by curbside pickup and dropoff of returns. Books and other materials will be left for 72 hours before they are checked in.
“All this will require patience from our patrons. We realize they are eager to receive library service again, and we miss them very much, but it is so important to keep everyone safe. I have been meeting via Zoom weekly with the other two Tri-Town library directors, and we all seem to be on the same page, as they say,” Pizzolato said.
When they are allowed to return, patrons will need to wear masks as well.
State officials are working to allow daytime summer camps in Phase 2 of the plan, and residential summer camps in Phase 3 of the plan.
To view the complete Safer At Home guidelines see: https://www.mass.gov/news/safer-at-home-advisory