Chamber News

June 11, 2020 Likes Comments

Making buildings feel safe

It’s been nearly three weeks since Gov. Charlie Baker announced that non-essential workers could return to their offices.
 
But by all accounts, companies large and small have been slow to take him up on it.
 
That’s partly because many of us (including the chamber team) have found ways to work productively from home (although those of us without air-conditioned home offices may feel differently in a few weeks).
 
For others, work from home is necessary as they juggle jobs with parenting, a problem that’s not easy to solve.
 
And, of course, we all have health safety concerns.
 
How do we know what’s getting cleaned when and with what? Where exactly is that vent over your desk drawing air from?
 
While reopening guidelines specifies multiple, specific, steps building managers must take and procedures employers must follow too, it’s all essentially on the honor system. There’s no government body inspecting or reviewing your cleaning or social distancing protocols. Reviews will likely only happen if someone files a complaint with a health department or if contact tracing unveils a spread.
 
So how can employers and employees feel confident that their building is safe?
 
And how can owners and real estate brokers give their tenants and prospective tenants confidence?
 
How about if your building had a COVID rating?
 
That’s an idea proposed by the WELL Building Institute.
 
Dubbed the WELL Health-Safety Rating, the idea would be to rate most property types, including offices, retail, restaurants, schools and hotels, BizNow and the Real Deal report.
 
The standard would examine building sanitation, including cleaning and touchless surfaces, water quality, waste disposal and other factors. In the case of buildings with permanent occupants, the standard will also look at corporate culture such as whether an occupant company actually encourages sick workers to stay home.
 
State modifies home-based daycare rules
 
Speaking of day care, small home-based providers have been granted new flexibility in how they manage their operations, but the new guidelines “do little to address the major concerns raised by childcare centers,” Shira Schoenberg writes in Commonwealth Magazine.
 
“The new guidance lets family childcares adhere to their former capacity and staff–child ratios, rather than stricter new ones. It lets them operate in the same physical space, even if it is smaller than recommended. It also provides flexibility for procedures regarding health screenings upon entering and isolation of sick children, knowing a provider may be working alone. Since family childcares may not have outdoor play spaces, the guidance allows the children to play in public playgrounds.”
 
Things looking good for Phase 2, Part 2
 
With the state’s health data stats continuing to move in the right direction, it shouldn’t be long before Gov. Charlie Baker allows restaurants to begin serving indoors.
 
Phase 2 Part 1 of the state’s reopening plan began Monday and included allowing outdoor dining, retail sales and more. In addition to limited indoor dining, Phase 2 Part 2 includes Close Personal Contact Personal Services such as message therapy, nail and tanning salons and personal training – all operating under strict guidelines.
 
How can restaurants cope?
 
If you’re wondering how restaurateurs will cope, and ideally succeed, please join me at 10 a.m. this morning (Thursday) for a conversation with Ed Doyle and David McMahon discussing how restaurants can maximize their operations and space. I spent some time talking with Ed and David on Tuesday and believe they’re putting together a really creative and helpful program.
 
For further insight about reopening safely, check out this entertaining but practical discussion between Chef José Andrés and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
 
And a reminder: If your restaurant is now offering outdoor dining please be sure and let us know so we can add you to our Outdoor Dining Directory.
 
I’m afraid we will be seeing more of these
 
After fourteen years in Auburndale, Abraxis Framing is permanently closed.
 
“Unfortunately, the pandemic has made it impossible for a small business like this to survive,” owner Eric Blomster wrote on Facebook.
 
“Our shared love of art and creativity is what made this shop a success for so many years and I can't thank you enough. You welcomed me into your community not just as your framer but as your friend and for that I am grateful. I wish everyone to stay safe, healthy and continue to support your local businesses!"
 
In addition, Boston Restaurant Talk reports that Miller's Ale House in Watertown has apparently closed. And while the Needham Abbott's Frozen Custard has been a favorite in my family thanks to that great walk-up window on Great Plain Ave, the Abbott’s in Brighton is closing for good.
 
Commuting needs evolving
 
With reopening continuing, the MBTA is planning to increase its frequency of transit service over the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the price of gasoline is climbing back up. And with patterns clearly evolving, the MassINC Polling Group wants your help anticipating how our future commuting needs will evolve.
 
Please take this online survey about commuting and working from home and share it with colleagues and employees, The survey closes on June 22.
 
Be back tomorrow, or sooner if something happens.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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