Safety for Essential Workers during the
COVID -19 Pandemic
Everyone has an opinion, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask; if you’re 6 feet why the mask, if you wear the mask, why the 6 feet? Is it real, is it life threatening, are the numbers real? Who is essential, who should stay home? Who do we listen to and trust for the right information? The list goes on and on. During these trying times, it is important to get the vital information to stay safe and keep your health regardless of both left-wing and right-wing factions.
In the onset of the virus, as it became more troublesome in the earlier stages of knowing how deadly it was, it was suggested that everyone stay home. With our economy and the infrastructure of how we move from place to place and the necessities of getting food, gas for our vehicles, paying our utilities, rents, mortgages etc., staying home and away from everyone caused a great deal of panic. Grocery store shelves went empty, fast! Schools closed early and children of all ages were sent home without the chance of completing the current grade by normal daily visits to their school. Even those who were to graduate for 2020 senior year were left without knowing if they would wear a cap and gown in an anticipated ceremony that has been a milestone carried on for years and years by previous graduating students. Revenues for non-essential businesses here on the Cape during the beginning of tourist season for shopping were looking bleak for those who rely on incoming foot
traffic to the Cape to local stores, restaurants, malls, and the like. It initially seemed like certain doom was upon us.
The powers that be in the state of Massachusetts immediately went to work in determining what was the best course of action for all. All in all, the people of Massachusetts should be proud of the way we have handled ourselves. Yes, it’s been rough, it’s been tough on everyone, especially those who have been determined essential to continue working, while everyone one else has been told to stay home or away from everything that we have come to consider normal activity.
The essential workers categories here in Massachusetts are on the state website as enumerated by Governor Bakers list, back in March of this year as follows:
• Health care, public health, and human services
• Law enforcement, public safety and first respondents
• Food and agriculture
• Energy (including electric, petroleum, natural gas, propane gas and steam)
• Water and wastewater
• Transportation and logistics
• Public works
• Communications and information technology
• Other community-Based Essential Functions and Government Operations
• Critical manufacturing
• Hazardous materials
• Financial services
• Defense industrial base
The actual list from the Mass.gov page is 9 pages long. This list covers the topic groups. There are other businesses that may stay open but can choose to close due to the mass restrictions set by the state government to maintain operations.
While Governor Baker issued this list of essential workers, he is also quoted to say “I do not believe I can or should order U.S. citizens to be confined to their homes for days on end, it doesn’t makes sense from a public health point of view, and not realistic.” And at the time of this statement on March 23rd, 2020 was made, the list was posted on the website where he ordered all non-essential workers home to self-quarantine for 14 days with the option to continue business remotely. Anyone violating the order would be subject to fines of up to $300.00 per first time and second offenders would be subject to $500.00 or imprisonment.
In the meantime, cases continued to climb locally in the state and nationally. The move to put an order to shelter in place was urged by more than 50 state elected officials. A petition was passed onto the Governor to put the shelter in place order immediately. It is selective language that is processed and passed on down to the people across the state urging all to stay home if you can; those that need to work based on the criteria of being essential and based on what is human need. What other states were calling “Stay at Home order,” Governor Baker chose to word it as “non-essential business to close, and people stay home, except for essential businesses.”
Phase 2 began for the state on June 8th. In the town of Chatham, under those guild lines listed above, restaurants were told they could remain open for take-out and curbside delivery only. Other businesses such as gift stores, clothing, local grooming (hair dressers and barber shops), Real Estate offices, any church operations, etc. etc. were deemed not warranting operations open to foot traffic. Only local essential business that fit in the format of the above list would be deemed appropriate for operations with conditions. Required wearing of masks on, in all areas where foot traffic is most likely to be less than 6’ and on Main Street, full time masks required from the Rt. 28 rotary to School St. (essentially the end of main street) or $300.00 fines can be enforced as of July 3rd, 2020. This requirement went across the Cape as of the beginning of July 2020. ( https://chatham.wickedlocal.com/news/20200703/capecod-and-island-towns-require-face-masks )
Moving forward through phase 2 and onto a tentative phase 3 plan the beginning of July which allows for more openings of businesses including outdoor dining at restaurants and local businesses opening to fuller capacity and in the wake of current summer conditions, new travel conditions have been placed under enforcement as of August 1st, 2020 for the state of Massachusetts. All travelers coming into the state of MA (including those who have left the state and returned) will need to “fill out a form summarizing their travel, then either self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival or submit negative test results for the COVID-19 virus that are no more than 72 hours old.” Although this has been in effect for months, it is now on the table with enforceable fines of up to $500.00 a day for people not complying with these regulations. (See footnotes for July 24th, 2020 & Mass.gov/infodetails/covid-19 travel order for information and the travel form for travelers.) Currently as of 8/4/2020 there are only 7 states listed as lower risk states that will not be required to fill out the travel form to enter the state.
The 7 states are:
2. New Hampshire
5. New York
6. New Jersey
This list can change as it did just recently due to increase of cases in RI (8/7/20)
According to NBC Boston news on July 2nd, an updated web page that specifically refers to the phase 2 & 3 of the opening our state economy, the list of openings is exponentially larger than before but still not allowing everything to open fully. Most of the list is for restricted public gatherings and outdoor activities. Also pending will be the opening of schools. And yet again, still leaving room to make the choice to open or not up to the individual towns, and businesses.
What will happen in phase 4? Will we make it? Phase 4 consists of opening bars and nightclubs, professional games, and entertainment arenas? While some of these have already opened either privately or with what some consider an overload of restrictions, it has not slowed or stopped the virus from spreading. Maybe we are not ready. Maybe its time to look at the medical science and apply the facts and see what we are missing to flatten the curve. Essential workers are doing their best to maintain normalcy for everyone while doing their best to maintain their own health and that of their families. Working together is the only way to keep your neighbor from getting sick. Essential workers are what is keeping the economy going right now. Hats off to all who have been there from the beginning. We could do better, and Massachusetts IS better than most. But we could all do better.