Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a four-step plan on Monday to begin reopening Massachusetts by May 18.
Baker said guidance on which businesses would be able to open first will be issued at a later date but will likely apply to those that require little to no contact with customers and in a “limited fashion.”
The Republican governor named each phase of the plan as: “start, cautious, vigilant” and “new normal,” with severe restrictions and limited openings to begin with as the country eventually moves toward a new vaccine for the virus.
“We’re anxious to try to get everybody back up and going as soon as it makes sense,” Baker said. “The goal of the reopening plan is to methodically allow certain businesses, services, and activities to resume, protecting public health, and limiting a possible resurgence of new COVID-19 cases.”
Baker faces mounting pressure from his constituents to rev up the state’s struggling economy but emphasizes the need to move forward cautiously.
He has already allowed golf courses to open after a public outcry and gun shops began selling again after owners sued the state.
On Monday, Massachusetts’ deaths topped 5,000. Although the state has ramped up testing and new cases are on the decline, deaths doubled over the last two weeks.
There are more than 78,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state — the third highest in the U.S. behind New York and New Jersey.
“These last couple of months have obviously been painful and difficult and frustrating for us all. We are seeing positive signs that the work everybody has done has been paying off, and that makes it possible for us to be serious about a phased reopening,” Baker said.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said that even when industries begin to open, employees will be mandated to remain six feet apart and wear a face covering to prevent the spread of coronavirus.