Westfield Newsroom

Baker: Reopening will hinge on ‘personal responsibility’

Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kate Phelon. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Chamber Director Kate Phelon says guidelines may be ‘challenging’

BOSTON – Construction and manufacturing businesses and places of worship are open effective immediately, said Gov. Charlie Baker during a news conference May 18.

Baker Monday unveiled the first of four phases for reopening Massachusetts and said that with the slow opening, everyone must remain vigilant in fighting COVID-19, saying that “getting back to work and fighting COVID-19” must go hand-in-hand.

“It remains up to all of us to continue to fight,” Baker said. “This effort will hinge fundamentally on personal responsibility.”

Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce Director Kate Phelon said she and chamber members have been waiting for this announcement.

“We have all been anxiously awaiting to hear the Phase I reopening details from Governor Baker, and now we have a well-thought out Phase I plan with the safety of all residents at the forefront,” Phelon said. “While some businesses will find the industry-specific workplace safety standards challenging, in order to get through Phase I, II, III and finally IV, it is imperative that the businesses do everything possible to comply with their standards.”

Phelon said there are more difficult weeks and months ahead, but she is happy to be moving forward.

“I know this is going to be hard, but to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and to be able to keep moving forward, compliance is essential. I am very excited that a number of local businesses will be able to ‘open’ their doors again; some today and others next week,” she said. “The Chamber is available for information and guidance on reopening, as we want to help the business community any way we can during these extremely difficult times. Businesses can also access mass.gov/reopening for detailed information.”

Other sectors in Phase 1 that are slated for a May 25 opening include laboratories, barbershops and hair salons, car washes and pet groomers. New guideline for reopening businesses must be followed by May 25 to open. Office spaces of up to 25 people can also open May 25, excluding in Boston. Boston offices are slated for a June 1 opening.

Baker said despite the openings, anyone who can work from home should work from home.

Mass.gov offers guidelines for each sector set to reopen, including sector specific workplace safety standards, protocols and checklists.

Construction safety guidelines include a zero tolerance for sick workers reporting to work, conducting meetings online and have crews a minimum of 6 feet apart, among others.

Manufacturing guidelines include staggering lunch and break times, using physical partitions and maintaining cleaning and disinfecting logs.

For places of worship, occupancy is limited to 40 percent of capacity of the building. Orderly entrance and exits are encouraged, including signage or floor markings and communal rituals should be modified, among other guidelines.

In addition to sector guidelines, Baker urged everyone to continue to stay home if possible and continue to practice COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Cover your nose and mouth when you can’t distance yourself, wash your hands and surfaces, keep your distance and stay vigilant for symptoms and stay home when you’re sick,” Baker urged. “Alone, each of these things can be highly effective. Together, these four things are exponentially more powerful.”

Baker said it was important to begin reopening slowly and said some retail stores could begin to open for curbside purchase and some outdoor recreation space could open as well. However, to keep the virus from spiking, behaviors must change.

“For the foreseeable future, everyone needs to do the right things,” he said of following orders so that reopening could continue.

Baker said each of the four phases would last at least three weeks. If positive cases begin to rise, Baker said he may revert back to previous phases at any time throughout the reopening process.

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