Municipalities tweak Baker’s reopening plans
Towns customize approaches to beaches, businesses, and churches
MONTHS INTO THE coronavirus pandemic, cities and towns are taking reopening plans into their own hands, including in Gov. Charlie Baker’s own backyard.
The Select and Health Boards of Swampscott, where Baker lives, have passed a new emergency order that is, in some respects, stricter than the four-phase reopening plan announced by the governor on Monday.
Heading into Memorial Day weekend, the seaside town is taking the surprising move of not allowing any congregation on beaches, parks, or areas outside private households. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced Monday that the state will allow groups of fewer than 10 people on beaches–but spaced 12 feet apart.
The town is requiring that businesses submit plans for approval before reopening, specifically addressing how they will maintain proper social distancing and hygiene protocol. No such pre-approval exists on the state level, where Baker is asking that businesses compose their own plans, post them in a visible place, and have any protocols available in writing for possible inspections.
The requirement will be in place until the boards decide that coronavirus is no longer a public health emergency. Swampscott is not alone in taking a different approach from the state on reopening policies.
In New Bedford, a city hard-hit with 53 coronavirus deaths, Mayor Jon Mitchell says that Baker’s plan for church services limited to 40 percent of permitted capacity is “a little bit big for our view.” Mentioning that some houses of worship see attendance numbers of over 500, Mitchell is instead limiting attendance to 40 percent of permitted capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower.
New Bedford will open its beaches in compliance with the state’s reopening order, but only New Bedford residents will be able to purchase a beach pass until further notice. Mitchell said the more stringent guidelines are needed because the city’s hospitalizations and new cases are not declining yet.Earlier this week, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced his own parting of ways with the state, saying he has no plans to lift the city’s curfew and he has concerns about opening offices at a quarter of normal capacity, the level set by the governor. Baker did put off the Boston start date for reopening office from Monday to June 1.
Walsh indicated the city will also look into how restaurants will reopen during the second phase of Baker’s plan, set to start in a little over two weeks. Outdoor dining and shutting down portions of the city’s streets to make space for socially-distanced tables are in the works.