Local Leaders Offer Mixed Reaction To Mass. Reopening Plan

May 20, 2020
Originally published on May 19, 2020 8:48 am

Massachusetts state leaders will rely on cities and towns to monitor and enforce the rules set out in the state’s plan to slowly reopen nonessential businesses over the next several weeks.

The 29-page plan, released by Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, outlines both general and industry-specific regulations businesses must meet in order to open to the public. Some businesses, like car washes, hair salons, and pickup-only retail, may resume operation next week.

“These workplace safety standards will be jointly enforced by local boards of health, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Labor Standards,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said during the plan’s presentation on Monday. “We will work together with our partners at the local level to move forward through this process.”

The plan also outlines responsibilities for residents as they slowly venture from their homes and interact with the public.

Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoff Beckwith said the plan places a burden on cities and towns. He said local governments may want to impose their own regulations and may need to update their operations.

“To deal with all the outdoor activities, all of the libraries, the senior centers, and all those programs to ensure safety, but also to try to put back in place vital and critical services,” he told WBUR following Baker’s press conference.

He added that some communities continue to struggle financially with the loss of local tax revenue.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the state’s plan will serve “as a guide for a cautious, phased-in approach” and stressed that safety and public health must remain the foremost priority as the economy reopens.

“What needs to be made clear is that reopening does not mean back to normal, and normal is not what we should be striving for,” he said in the statement. “… It means continuing to meet the needs of our families, seniors, front-line workers and vulnerable people, because reopening the economy does not erase the hurt that continues to be felt by so many in our city who have been impacted by this crisis. It means working collectively, for however long it may take, to recover the health and strength of our city and its people.”

Walsh, like Baker and nearly every other public leader in the state, emphasized that residents must continue to practice social distancing, hand-washing and additional cleaning, as well as wear masks when physical separation is not possible in public places.

Boston will keep working with the Baker administration on its reopening plans to “make decisions that are based on data and the needs of our diverse residents and workers,” he said.

In Somerville, Mayor Joe Curtatone said construction sites are up and running again, but places like barbershops and churches remain closed, despite the state’s loosening of restrictions upon them. Houses of worship, according to Baker, are able to immediately start congregating again, under new rules.

New Bedford Mayor John Mitchell said he’s studying the guidelines to make sure they won’t worsen the outbreak.

“The virus has not affected the state uniformly,” he said. “Here in New Bedford, we have fewer cases overall, but we’re on a different trajectory from the rest of the state … so we have to be a little more cautious.”

In Lawrence, Mayor Dan Rivera said he agrees with the state’s guidelines and plans to follow them to a T.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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