Chamber News

July 07, 2020 Likes Comments

I'm nervous. Aren't you?

Phase 3 of the Baker Administration’s reopening plan began yesterday, allowing for the opening of movie theaters (not the West Newton Cinema quite yet), museums and cultural facilities, fitness centers and health clubs and casinos, as well as some new rules for retailers and offices.
 
Baker’s decision, like each phased reopening before it, has been thoughtfully executed, with exacting sector-specific protocols and carefully monitoring of health data trends.
 
But what about those soaring infection rates in other parts of the nation?
 
A setback in Massachusetts would be disheartening. It would be disrespectful to the front line workers who've given so much. And it would be devastating to our exhausted businesses and nonprofits that have been working diligently to pay bills and reopen safely.

Asked last week if he was concerned about a rebound of the virus here, Baker said the people of Massachusetts and employers have “demonstrated time and time again” that they’ve been willing to abide by the rules and follow the guidelines.
 
He said that part of the problem that led to spikes in other states was the reopening or bars and nightclubs.Bars, nightclubs and other large venues will not reopen until Phase 4, which Baker won’t allow here until there is the availability of therapeutics or a vaccine.
 
Baker urged the public to “continue to be smart about how we do this.”
 
But we’ve all seen and read reports of "covidiots" not being smart or respecting others. It's far too common.
 
Business owners don’t want to police their customers. They shouldn't have to.
 
Retail and office guidance updated
 
With the beginning of Phase 3, the retail sector guidance was updated to allow for an increase in occupancy to 50 percent. The new guidance allows for increased use of general dressing and fitting rooms, with requirements of removing garments and frequent cleaning in place. Find the updated safety standards here. And the retail checklist here.
Office space protocols were also updated, now allowing for 50 percent occupancy. The updated office safety standards are here. And here’s the office space checklist.
 
Indoor gatherings are now limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet but should not include more than 25 people (although as Jon Chesto reported in the Globe yesterday, the hotel industry had been lobbying for a lot more).
 
Gatherings in enclosed outdoor spaces are limited to 25 percent or 100 people.

All businesses and sectors in Phase 3 are subject to compliance with all mandatory safety standards. Consult these sector-specific protocols and the When Can My Business Reopen? pages for more specifics.
 
No kumbaya moment here
 
One last thing about the reopening plan: As noted above, I believe the Baker Administration has generally done a thoughtful job rolling out and communicating during this crisis.
 
But they blew it on overnight camps.
 
After being listed for months as part of Phase 3, sleepaway camps operators discovered last Thursday they’d been moved from Phase 3 to 4 without being informed.
 
Rather than opening this month, overnight camps will be closed until 2021. This makes sense for health reasons. That doesn’t excuse the bad communication.
 
“That was a punch to the face for all of us,” Matt Scholl, president of the state camping association and a director of two camps told the Globe. “It came as a total shock to us. We didn’t even get an e-mail or a phone call about it.”
 
Life sciences center planned for Mount Auburn Club site
 
The Mount Auburn Club in Watertown will be redeveloped into a life-sciences lab and office space, the Globe’s Tim Logan reports.
 
Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Newton’s National Development paid just under $33 million for the 6.3 acre location.
 
“Like most other athletic clubs, we have struggled with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, and even now are unsure of what its long-term effects will be for our industry,” the club’s owners, the Crowley family, wrote in a letter to members.
 
“We look forward to working with the Watertown community on an exciting new development that is consistent with the vision for reinvigorating Coolidge Avenue,” said National Development managing partner Ted Tye.
 
C-Line shut down until Aug. 1
 
Track replacement and repair work has begun on the MBTA’s C-Line and will continue until Aug. 1. Free shuttle buses will run between Cleveland Circle to Kenmore. More details here. Here’s the project fact sheet.
 
Who got a PPP loan?
 
Yesterday, the Small Business Administration released the names of 660,000 small businesses and nonprofit organizations that received at least $150,000 under the program. The average loan size was $107,000.
 
More than 18,000 Massachusetts companies received PPPs. BBJ lists the largest here.
 
Restaurants, medical offices and car dealerships were the top recipients.
 
Washington lobbying firms, trade groups, political organization s, consulting firms and special interest groups, the New York Times reported.
 
Not too late to apply
 
Here's your chance to add your business or nonprofit to a future PPP recipient list.
 
Over the weekend, the program was officially extended to Aug. 8. There is still approximately $125 billion in PPP loan funds available.
 
Here’s slides from our PPP presentation last month and here’s the answers to 82 questions chamber members submitted to the SBA following that presentation.
 
If you still have questions, you can also contact SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Find a chamber member bank here.
 
MBTA's COVID response could encourage more driving
 
Traffic is back. It’s not as bad as it was. But certainly, we’re seeing more cars as our economy reopens.
 
And now a report by the economic advocacy group A Better City is warning that things may get worse quickly if the MBTA isn’t able to execute a plan that gives commuters confidence to get out from behind the wheel.
 
The study compared the T to public transit systems in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. on a range of safety protocols. They placed our transit agency in 4th in terms of preparedness to minimize COVID-19 risks.
 
Their conclusions?
  • MBTA currently excels in cleaning and disinfecting protocols, as well as workforce management practices.
  • The agency is making progress with restoration of service, requirement of face coverings, and provision of hand sanitizer, but more is needed on these fronts.
  • But the MBTA is lagging behind other agencies in ensuring physical distancing and issuing a comprehensive reopening plan.
"This anticipated mode shift to single occupancy vehicles will lead to crippling roadway congestion, as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions that will disproportionately impact underserved communities and communities of color," the report read.
 
According to the report, all of the systems have a six-foot social distance requirement, except for Boston and Philadelphia were the standard is three feet.
 
That’s all for now. 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
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