Starting this week, grocery stores will now be allowed to operate at 50 percent of maximum permitted occupancy, an increase from the 40 percent permitted previously. A temporary ban on reusable bags in stores has also been lifted and municipalities with plastic bag bans may resume enforcement of those bans.
The updated retail safety standards for Phase III maintain much of the previous standards for grocery stores. Physical distancing must continue to be maintained among both workers and customers and grocery stores and pharmacies must continue to set aside at least one morning hour each day for shoppers of age 60 or older. Use of face coverings continues to be required in all settings where one is unable to properly physically distance themselves, including all businesses and outdoor settings where individuals pass within six feet of each other.
Given the record-breaking increase in case numbers in other states that have reopened too quickly or failed to observe proper precautions, it is imperative that our communities proceed with caution as we continue into Phase III of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan. I am pleased that the people of Cape Ann and the Commonwealth have overwhelmingly heeded the advice of medical professionals to follow COVID-19 safety precautions and a phased reopening that is based on data and science.
As we continue to move through the Commonwealth’s reopening plan, it is tempting to believe that the threat has subsided, especially given the results of our actions on the state and local levels. However, as the evidence from other states has shown us, until the rest of the country follows the example of Massachusetts, COVID-19 will remain a threat while preventative treatments are not yet available. Within Massachusetts, we must take care to ensure that the rate of spread remains low and does not increase to a level where community spread would resume.
More data is coming out every day on the possible lifelong effects this virus has on those that survive it. It is up to each of us, working together, to protect all of the members of our community, from the youngest to the most senior. Thank you to each of you who are doing your part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.