Phased reopening plan

Reopening Massachusetts was the four-phase approach to responsibly reopen the Massachusetts economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the phased reopening, based on public health guidance, was progressively to allow businesses, services, and activities to resume, while protecting public health and limiting a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases. The plan centered around Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that applied across all sectors and enterprises as well as sector-specific protocols tailored to individual sectors and activities. Each phase of the reopening was guided by public health data and key indicators that were continually monitored for progress and were used to determine advancement to future phases. Industries, sectors, and activities that presented lower risk were allowed to reopen in earlier phases. Those that presented greater risk opened in later phases. In order to reopen, businesses were required to develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan outlining plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among workers and patrons.

The plan was developed by a 17-member Reopening Advisory Board, co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, that included public health experts, municipal leaders and members of the business community representing many facets of the Massachusetts economy. The Board met with a total of 75 stakeholder groups ranging from industry associations, regional chambers of commerce, community coalitions, and labor organizations, representing over 112,000 different businesses and more than two million workers across the Commonwealth. The Reopening Advisory Board also considered written comments from over 4,500 employers, organizations, and individuals in the development of its plan.

Phase I (“Start”) of the plan began on May 18, 2020, and allowed manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and places of worship to re-open. Hospitals and community health centers were able to begin to provide high priority preventative care, pediatric care and treatment for high risk patients. Under a staggered approach, additional Phase 1 sectors of the economy were permitted to open effective May 25 including lab space, office space, limited personal services (including hair salons, pet grooming, car washes, and retailers could offer remote fulfillment and curbside pick-up for all retailers).

Massachusetts moved to Phase 2 (“Cautious”) in June, allowing additional lower risk businesses to reopen, including retail, childcare facilities, restaurants (with outdoor table service only), hotels and other lodgings, personal services without close physical contact, youth and adult amateur sports, and driving and flight schools. In Step 2 of Phase II, restaurants were permitted to open for indoor table service, close-contact personal services, including nail care, skin care, massage therapy, and personal training. Health care providers also incrementally resumed in-person elective, non-urgent procedures and services, including routine office visits, dental visits and vision care subject to compliance with public health and safety standards.

On July 6, the Commonwealth proceeded to Phase III (“Vigilant”) based on a sustained decline in key public health data, such as new cases and hospitalizations. A broad range of sectors were permitted to open, again subject to compliance with industry-specific rules concerning capacity and operations. The Phase III, Step 1 sectors included movie theaters and outdoor performance venues; museums, cultural and historical sites; fitness centers and health clubs; certain indoor recreational activities with low potential for contact; and professional sports teams (without spectators) became eligible to reopen. In October, indoor performance venues were permitted to open, and certain industries saw their capacity limits increase.

An increase in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations following the Thanksgiving holiday that coincided with a global surge in the virus precipitated new statewide restrictions for capacity, mask compliance and distancing. These temporary reductions in indoor capacities across a broad range of sectors of the economy, as well as a tightening of several other workplace restrictions, were designed to prevent infection and viral spread.

With public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction, including drops in average daily COVID cases and hospitalizations, and vaccination rates continuing to increase, Massachusetts moved into Phase IV (“New Normal”) on March 22, 2021 with indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas, and ballparks permitted to open at 12 percent capacity, and exhibition and convention halls also beginning to operate. Additional industries such as amusement parks, theme parks, and outdoor water parks opened on May 10, along with road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events.

The reopening plan called for ending restrictions when vaccines became widely available, and effective May 29, 2021 all industries were permitted to open. With the exception of remaining face-covering requirements for public and private transportation systems and facilities housing vulnerable populations, all industry restrictions were also lifted, and capacity increased to 100% for all industries. All industries are encouraged to follow CDC guidance for cleaning and hygiene protocols.

COVID19, Update and Resources (As of Nov. 14th 2020)

With the recent uptick in positive cases, it is critical that we continue practicing physical distancing, staying at home whenever possible, wearing face coverings, washing hands, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly. Please text BOSCOVID to 888-777 to sign up for daily updates about our COVID-19 strategy. Click here for multi-lingual support to access these resources.

Access to Testing:

Boston has 30 active testing sites at including health centers and the mobile testing locations. Please visit to find the closest testing center near you. Residents will not be charged for testing and residents will not be asked about immigration status.

Revised Stay At Home Advisory:

The revised Stay At Home Advisory instructs residents to stay home between 10 PM and 5 AM. The Advisory allows for activities such as going to work, running critical errands to get groceries and address health needs, and taking a walk.

Click here to read the revised Stay At Home Advisory

Revised Face Covering Order:

All persons to wear face-coverings in all public places, even where they are able to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. The revised order still allows for an exception for residents who cannot wear a face-covering due to a medical or disabling condition, but it allows employers to require employees to provide proof of such a condition. It also allows schools to require that students participating in in-person learning provide proof of such a medical or disabling condition.

Revised Gatherings Order:

  • Private Spaces: Indoor gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings at private residences are limited to 25 people.

  • Public Spaces: Indoor gatherings remain limited to 25 people and outdoor gatherings are 50 order reduces the gathering size limit for gatherings at private residences:

The new order requires that all gatherings (regardless of size or location) must end and disperse by 9:30 PM. In addition, organizers of gatherings must report known positive COVID-19 cases to the local health department in that community and requires organizers to cooperate with contact tracing. The gatherings order creates a $500 fine for each person above the limit at a particular gathering.

Early Closure of Businesses and Activities:

All in person businesses and activities are required to close 9:30 PM and 5:00 AM. This closure applies to alcohol and retail cannabis sales. Patrons admitted before 9:30PM at restaurants and in-person dining can complete their meal and must be off the premises by 10:00. Takeout and delivery may continue for food and non-alcoholic beverages until their licensed closing time.

State Guidance on Reopening Schools:

On Friday, November 6 Governor Baker announced updated guidance on reopening schools, including new metrics to designate whether communities are low risk. Please note that Boston remains in the red zone, high risk category at this time.

With these changes, the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has issued updated guidance to prioritize in-person learning statewide and support municipalities. Under this guidance, districts and schools in communities designated gray, green or yellow are expected to have students learning fully in-person when possible.

Housing Supports:

The City reopened the Rental Relief Funds application for residents unable to pay their rent due to COVID19. For additional support services and eviction assistance, please visit The Boston Home Center at City Hall remains open and offer assistance homeowners to avoid foreclosure.

City of Boston Small Business Supports:

The office of Small Business Development has a weekly Conference Calls every Tuesday at 3PM with updates about their efforts to support small businesses. The City's Reopen Boston Fund grants are still available for small businesses to help purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety tools. The Fund has been expanded for restaurants to buy outdoor heaters, storage equipment, and propane. Grant applications are being reviewed and approved on a rolling basis. The application is available in multiple languages.

Small Business Supports:

The City's Reopen Boston Fund grants are still available for small businesses to help purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety tools. The Fund has been expanded for restaurants to buy outdoor heaters, storage equipment, and propane. Grant applications are being reviewed and approved on a rolling basis. The application is available in multiple languages.

Learn more about the application at

Meal Sites:

The City’s meal sites remain open to provide free breakfast and lunch for youth and teens. Please text "Food" or "Comida" to 877-877 to access a map of meal sites.

Click here to find the closest meal sites near you.

Supports for Seniors:

The City has a Good Neighbor program to offer mental health check in and free home delivery services for food and medication. The City also has a home repair program to help seniors with needed improvements around the house.

Please call the Age Strong Commission 617-635-4366 to access these resources

Boston Testing Pledge:

The City launched a Boston Testing Pledge to promote regular testing and encourage employers allow employees to get tested during work hours. The City is reporting a decline in the number of COVID19 tests. They are asking residents to get tested as frequently as possible to ensure the City has an accurate count of the rate of COVID19. As we enter a critical phase of the pandemic, having accurate will help the City prepare resources and prevent a future shutdown.

Click here to learn more about the Boston Testing Pledge.