Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Massachusetts, US, launch a four-stage plan to reopen the economy starting May 18.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts
  • Cape Cod (Hyannis), Massachusetts

This alert began 18 May 2020 21:52 GMT and is scheduled to expire 27 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Massachusetts (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions, heightened security

Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker launched a four-stage plan to reopen the commonwealth's economy, beginning with phase 1 on May 18. Authorities also issued a safer-at-home advisory, which encourages residents, especially those 65 years or older and those with underlying medical conditions, to remain at home except to perform essential tasks, as part of the administration's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). According to the advisory, residents must not participate in close-contact activities and are required to wear face coverings whenever they cannot maintain proper distance from others. Gatherings of 10 people or more remain banned.

Phase 1 of the economic reopening plan will begin with the lifting of restrictions on the following businesses and services:

  • On May 18: Manufacturing facilities; construction sites; places of worship; hospitals and community health centers
  • On May 25: Laboratory and office-space, except in the city of Boston; personal care businesses such as barber shops and hair salons; car washes; retail stores for curbside pickup only; beaches, parks, and multiple outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, and boating; outdoor gardens, zoos, and reserves; drive-in movie theaters
  • On June 1: office space in the city of Boston

Phase 1 will remain in place through at least June 8, when Phase 2 is scheduled to begin. However, authorities could delay the lifting of additional restrictions if public health data is negative. All businesses must follow specific guidelines, including social distancing measures, enhanced sanitation procedures, and limiting the number of customers or attendees within their premises.

Essential businesses and services, such as law enforcement, utility services, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, fuel stations, and those in the transport, security, and critical manufacturing industries, are allowed to remain open. Other nonessential businesses and services are only allowed to maintain with employees working from home. Restaurants can operate for delivery and pick-up service only. Lodging businesses can continue operating only for efforts related to the COVID-19 emergency.

All travelers entering Massachusetts are urged to self-quarantine for 14 days, upon arrival. In-person lessons at public schools will remain canceled through the end of the school year.

Significant transport and business disruptions are likely. Authorities will likely deploy additional security personnel to assist in enforcing the measures. Officials could amend the orders on short notice, depending on the disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures will likely accelerate in the coming weeks; however, restrictions may be reimposed or extended further should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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