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Governor Baker Announces Plan to Reopen Massachusetts

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released a four-phase plan on Monday morning for reopening the Commonwealth, including specifics for the reopening of institutions of higher education. 

Phase 1 of Baker’s plan will allow for institutions of higher education to resume in-person work in research labs, as well as medical, dental, veterinary, and allied health clinical education and services. Institutions can also restart functions that are needed to ready campus for reopening. Social distancing must continue to be practiced in all activities, according to the plan.

In Phase 2 and 3 of the state’s reopening, universities will devise their own individualized plans in compliance with public health guidelines for offering courses going forward. In order to permit social distancing, universities will likely consider a blend of in-person and remote teaching, according to the plan. 

Each phase of the plan will span at least three weeks, and transitioning from one phase to the next will be contingent upon public health data. If the data shows significant increases in transmission of COVID-19, though, the state could return to a previous phase or close sectors of the economy. 

If each phase lasts only the three-week minimum, Massachusetts could move into the final phase as early as July 20.

Boston College is planning to resume classes on campus as scheduled on Aug. 31, according to an email from University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., to the BC community on Tuesday.

“Massachusetts’ diverse higher education institutions continue to foster teaching, learning, student support, and essential research remotely throughout this time,” Baker’s plan reads. “They are working together and in partnership with the state to ensure a safe and gradual return to campus life.”

Throughout all phases, institutions will be expected to enforce safety guidelines and health-monitoring protocols in all aspects of campus life, including dining, housing, facilities and services, and classrooms, according to the plan. 

The plan calls for all Massachusetts residents to continue to maintain proper hygiene and practice social distancing. Baker’s order requiring the use of masks in public places, which went into effect on May 6, will continue to be enforced.

Phase 1 of Baker’s plan will permit certain industries to resume operations with strict limitations. The first phase allowed for places of worship, manufacturing companies, and construction sites to reopen on Monday, with some guidelines and restrictions. Labs, outdoor recreation sites, barbershops, and car washes will be among the limited businesses that can reopen on May 25, provided they follow certain guidelines. 

Offices outside of the City of Boston may reopen on May 25, although the plan instructs businesses to encourage employees to work from home and to keep their in-person workforces below 25 percent of the maximum capacity of their workspaces. Office spaces within the city can reopen with these guidelines on June 1. 

Under these guidelines, offices located in the areas of BC’s campus that are located in the City of Boston—including those on Lower Campus and the Brighton Campus—may not open until the June 1 date.

The second phase allows reopening of certain nonessential businesses, including retail, restaurants, nail salons, and day spas, with some restrictions and capacity limitations. 

The third phase allows most other remaining businesses to reopen, with the exception of large venues and nightclubs. Bars, casinos, gyms, and museums will be allowed to open during this phase, with some restrictions. In Phase 4 of the plan, all activities will be able to resume. 

Featured Image Courtesy of Montanabw / Wikimedia Commons

May 19, 2020