The Governor of Massachusetts recently unveiled the state’s plan to gradually re-open in accordance with health and safety guidelines. The plan includes four phases with Phase 1 already in progress (for select business). The goal is to lift restrictions on society and reach a ‘new normal’ in a way that does not negatively impact the rate of infections or the healthcare system capacity. With the dawn of the summer months, this transition is certainly welcome, however, at this point, it is still unclear when this ‘new normal’ may be reached.
The Massachusetts plan dictates that each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and progress onto the next phase is contingent on positive change (or no negative change) for these following indicators:
- COVID-19 positive test rate
- Number of individuals who died from COVID-19
- Number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals
- Healthcare system readiness
- Testing capacity
- Contact tracing capabilities
That is to say that if the rate of COVID-19 positive infections went up, then the phased re-opening would cease to progress and the next steps would be reevaluated. This means that if everything moves exactly as planned, then Massachusetts can begin Phase 3 in mid-July. Phase 4, however, is also contingent on the development of a vaccine or a treatment, which makes an early August Phase 4 start less likely.
Massachusetts’s four phases for reopening include the following:
Phase 1 START: Essentially looks like the status quo (stay-at-home advisory, gatherings of less than 10 people, etc.), but with some limited industries to resume operations with severe restrictions (include office buildings, services like hair salons, and outdoor spaces like parks and beaches).
Phase 2 CAUTIOUS: More businesses including restaurants and hotels will resume operations with restrictions and capacity limitations
Phase 3 VIGILANT: Additional ‘art and entertainment’ industries like bars, gyms, museums are permitted to resume operations with guidance.
Phase 4 NEW NORMAL: All business may reopen (presumably with some guidance). As mentioned above, this phase is contingent on the development of a vaccine and / or effective treatment.
While it is an exciting prospect to see things begin to open up, it is important that we continue to exercise cautions like washing our hands, staying apart from others, and covering our faces. My fear is that the potentially toxic combination of the onset of the warm weather, looser restrictions, and pent-up frustration will result in people becoming careless (i.e. like forgetting to wash their hands, inviting friends over, or hosting large gatherings). Massachusetts is committed to stopping the re-opening process if the situation begins to deteriorate, hopefully, it will not come to that–but it is good to know that health and safety are priority.
I wish you all good health and sound judgement!