Baker greenlights phase two for Monday

‘We are clearly on a path to beat the virus’

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said the state will move into the second phase of its four-phase approach to reopening on Monday, allowing retail stores, lodgings, child care facilities, day camps, amateur sports, and restaurant outdoor dining to open.

The governor’s Saturday press conference was anticlimactic because there was no will-he-or-won’t-he to the announcement. All of the data that the governor relies on in making reopening decisions was trending in the right direction, although some advocacy groups had urged him to hold off.

With little new to say, Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and many of their top aides repeatedly thanked Massachusetts residents and businesses for staying the course and making personal and financial sacrifices in the fight against COVID-19.

“We are clearly on the path to beat the virus,” Baker said, before adding that people still need to remain cautious. Polito urged Massachusetts residents to “buy local, support local, and visit local.”

Baker said one of the key lessons learned from phase one was that most people who could work from home continued to do so even though offices began to reopen “That one over time is going to be a real interesting dynamic,” he said..

Polito said it will be interesting to watch the behavior of businesses and customers in phase two. “When will they [businesses] open in phase two and what will the public’s response be?” she asked.

Phase two will be divided into two parts – a first part starting on Monday and a second part within three weeks assuming the coronavirus remains in check.

The first part of phase two was heavily foreshadowed this past week by the governor as he sought to give businesses time to prepare. In addition to outdoor restaurant dining, retail, lodging, amateur sports, and pro team practices, the first part of phase two will see the return of driving schools, the opening of funeral homes, and the resumption of many lower-profile services, many of which have already been operating under the radar, including home cleaning, window washing, and tutoring.

Baker said the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on major traffic arteries leading into Boston will reopen on Monday as office buildings throw their doors open to more employees.

Most regular medical services will resume, except for cosmetic surgeries, which will be put off until whenever phase three starts. Doctors can resume office visits with patients and in-person behavioral health visits can also restart. So can dental and vision care services.

Marylou Sudders, the governor’s secretary of health and human services, said health providers will be given a lot of discretion on how quickly they ramp back up. She urged health providers to take patients with more serious issues first. She also noted that new guidelines for office visits – fewer chairs in waiting rooms, for example — will require the pace of ramp-up to be slower than it used to be. “It will take longer for patient visits to occur,” Sudders said.

Starting June 10, Sudders said, hospitals can allow patients to have one visitor at a time and can have one person accompany them when they come to the hospital.

The start date for part two of phase two has not been set yet, but it is expected sometime within the next three weeks. When it does start, restaurants will be allowed to begin serving indoors. Nail salons, hair removal businesses, massage therapy, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and personal training will also resume.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, which had been pushing along with dozens of other organizations for a delay in phase two until several health and regulatory goals were met, issued a statement saying she was disappointed in the governor’s announcement.

“Today, Governor Baker chose to ignore these basic standards and instead to put Massachusetts residents at increased risk of illness and death, with little in the way of data to track impact on Black and Latinx residents, no meaningful protections for low-wage workers, testing that falls dramatically short of the governor’s own goals, and – adding insult to injury – no seat at the table for the very communities that stand to be most impacted. The governor claims to always ‘follow the data’ and to ‘listen to the experts,’ but today he did exactly the opposite,” the statement said.