By Rob Favini, Head of Library Advisory & Development at the MBLC
This week 134 communities in Massachusetts were reported as “high risk” communities by the Department of Public Health. Communities will revert to operations under Step 1 Phase III of the state’s reopening plan after being designated as high risk for three consecutive weeks in the Department of Public Health weekly reports. Reverting back to Step 1 Phase III should have minimal impact on libraries. The most notable change is building capacity being reduced to 40% occupancy. Curbside services are not impacted.
During the fall and winter months it is likely that more communities will revert to Step 1 Phase III due to increased community positivity results. Below are some helpful links and information to help you navigate the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Updates and Information page.
For a definition of “low risk community” and a list of communities not designated as low risk: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-communities-in-step-1-of-phase-iii-not-designated-lower-risk
For an overview of allowable opening activity under Step 2 Phase III: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-transition-to-step-ii-of-phase-iii-for-lower-risk
Safety Standards and Checklists for Libraries: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/safety-standards-and-checklist-libraries
How community risk levels are determined: https://massgis.maps.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=9f5b8ae8d0e24a1b98c55f704aaa24f3
The latest community level data reporting and risk designation, including map interface: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/community-level-covid-19-data-reporting
Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-communities-in-step-1-of-phase-iii-not-designated-lower-risk#frequently-asked-questions-
When does a community revert from Step 2 of Phase III to Step 1 of Phase III?
A community must revert to Step I of Phase III of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan, as outlined in the Governor’s COVID-19 Order #51, when the community is designated in the “red” category for three consecutive weekly Department of Public Health weekly reports.
When a community reverts from Step 2 to Step 1, what date is the reversion effective?
The rule changes go into effect the Monday after the data is posted. For example, if a community is red for the third week and the Department of Public Health posts the data on Thursday, then the rules go into effect on the following Monday.
What changes when a community moves from Step 2 to Step 1 of Phase III?
The following types of businesses are prohibited from operating during Step 1 of Phase III: indoor performance venues, roller skating rinks, trampoline parks, obstacle courses, laser tag and escape rooms.
The following types of businesses must reduce capacity to 40% (currently 50%) when operating during Step 1 of Phase III: driving/flight schools, gyms, libraries, museums, arcades, and lower-contact indoor and outdoor recreation businesses. During Step 1, outdoor gatherings at event venues and in public settings are limited to 50 people.
As always safety considerations for staff and library users are job one. Please remember to contact your local health department when making any decision regarding opening or modifying library building access and any expansion of library services.
Take care and be safe out there!
Update on 11/4/2020 at 3:00pm to clarify that towns were deemed “high risk”.