Reopening plans remain big question mark
Baker names panel to come up with a way forward
WE DON’T REALLY KNOW how the state will move to reopen the economy, but we now know who will come up with the plan. Gov. Charlie Baker tapped Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and his housing and economic development secretary, Mike Kennealy, to co-chair a 17-member Reopening Advisory Board.
Baker said it will be a phased and careful restart. “We have to be smart about how we do it and understand there are risks associated with going back too soon,” he said. In announcing the advisory board, Baker also extended the closure of non-essential businesses until May 18, giving the panel three weeks to come up with a plan (if there’s not another extension of the order).
The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld is not exactly wowed by the idea of Polito helming the effort, and points out the presence of several Polito campaign donors among the business, health care, and academic leaders named to the board.
Senate President Karen Spilka, speaking yesterday to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, wondered how reopening would work, speculating that workers on the 39th floor of a Boston office tower are unlikely to hike all the way there by stairs. But how would it work to go by elevator? One at time?
And before they get to the building lobby, how will those who typically rely on public transportation even get downtown? The social distance in MBTA subway cars at rush hour is not exactly what Dr. Fauci has ordered.
“We are planning for 15 different scenarios. There are so many questions we can’t get answered yet,” Cindy Brown, chief executive of Boston Duck Tours, told the Globe.
Many business leaders the Globe spoke to said they would be relying on daily temperature checks of arriving employees. As we now know, however, that can miss lots of infected people who are asymptomatic.
Michael Tamasi, CEO of AccuRounds, an Avon precision manufacturer that has been operating because it’s deemed an essential business, said the firm has created three different lunch periods for its 75-person workforce so employees can spread out in the cafeteria. But the room is mostly empty.
“Most people are eating in their cars,” he said.
That captures the challenge that will be facing businesses as they reopen and hope to welcome back customers.
“Consumers may have permission to go do something. But whether they go do it depends upon how badly they want to do it and how safe they feel,” William Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business, told the Washington Post.
The simplicity — and safety — of a brown paper bag with a homemade sandwich may suddenly be in fashion.
Other states have begun reopening, adopting a variety of measures designed to get the economy going again while still guarding against spread of the virus. But not everyone is jumping at the chance.
Olivia Wise, 22, a laid off waitress in New Braunfels, Texas, said her restaurant is reopening on Friday, but she’s more anxious than eager. “I personally think it’s still too soon,” she told the Post. “It’s awesome they want to get the economy going again, but it’s not worth risking getting my parents sick.”
In a new Washington Post poll, 66 percent of respondents — including 62 percent of Republicans — said that current limits on restaurants, stores, and businesses were “appropriate.” Only 17 percent said they were too restrictive.
Some economists say there could be a bit of a rebound effect from pent-up demand. But that is likely to be far overshadowed by continued worries about the virus and all the ways that a reopening “won’t be business as usual.” On top of all that will be all the belt tightening by those who remain out of work or have watched savings disappear in the huge stock market slide.If it’s all too much doom and gloom, with the November election fast approaching, there is at least one voice of unbridled optimism.
President Trump, who has been burnishing his reputation for fact-free pronouncements at an accelerated pace during the crisis, declared that he thinks the “fourth quarter’s going to be incredibly strong.”