June 19th Information & Resources Update
Governor Announces Reopening Phase II, Step Two To Begin Monday;
Restaurants May Resume Indoor Table Service Monday

Today, the Governor announced that Step Two of Phase II of the Commonwealth’s four-phase reopening plan will begin this Monday, June 22 to allow additional industries to resume operations under sector-specific guidelines.

Businesses and sectors set to begin operating in Step Two of Phase II are subject to compliance with all mandatory safety standards.

On May 18, the Administration released a four-phased plan to reopen the economy based on public health data, spending at least three weeks in each phase. Key public health data, such as new cases and hospitalizations, has been closely monitored and seen a significant decline allowing for Step Two of Phase II to begin on June 22.

The following will be eligible to reopen in Step Two of Phase II on Monday, June 22:

  • Indoor table service at restaurants

  • Close-contact personal services, with restrictions

  • Retail dressing rooms, by appointment only

  • Offices, at 50 percent capacity

A full listing of industries by phase, as well as safety protocols, are available online at www.mass.gov/reopening, along with other Reopening plan documents.

In order to give Step 2 businesses time to prepare, the Administration had previously released sector-specific guidance in advance of Phase II for industries including restaurants, close-contact personal services and sectors not otherwise addressed:

Before these sectors can resume operations under the guidelines, businesses must meet all safety standards, create a COVID-19 control plan, and complete a self-certification.

Senate Committee Advances Telehealth Bill

The State Senate's Committee on Ways and Means has recommended for consideration to the full Senate a bill, S. 2769, aimed at expanding telehealth services. An Act Putting Patients First is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week; it will then move onto the House of Representatives for further consideration.

The legislation seeks to remove financial and insurance barriers to telehealth services, protect patients from out-of-network surprise billing, expand the healthcare workforce, and analyze health system impacts of COVID-19.

Telehealth refers to the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology, typically through videoconference or phone call. This bill would make telehealth services permanently available for Massachusetts patients after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended.

The legislation, as currently drafted:

  • Requires the Health Policy Commission to recommend a noncontracted commercial rate for emergency services and a noncontracted commercial rate for nonemergency services to the Division of Insurance for a 5-year term.

  • Requires the Division of Insurance to review the recommended noncontracted commercial rate for emergency and nonemergency services recommended by the Health Policy Commission.

  • Provides that noncontracted commercial rate for emergency services and a noncontracted commercial rate for nonemergency services accepted by the Division of Insurance remain in effect for 5 years.

  • Authorizes the Center on Health Information and Analysis to calculate noncontracted commercial rate for emergency services and a noncontracted commercial rate for nonemergency services.

  • Requires the Group Insurance Commission plan, MassHealth, commercial health insurers, nonprofit hospital service corporations, nonprofit medical service corporations, health maintenance organizations, and preferred provider organizations to cover the use of telehealth via synchronous or asynchronous audio, video, electronic media or other telecommunications technology, including, but not limited to, text messaging, application-based communications and online adaptive interviews, for the purpose of evaluating, diagnosing, consulting, prescribing, treating or monitoring a patient’s health.

  • Removes certain supervision requirements around prescribing for certain nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse mental health clinical specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

  • Allows nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and psychiatric nurse mental health clinical specialists to prescribe and operate without supervision after 2 years of supervised practice.

  • Allows advanced practice registered nurses to admit, assess and restrain patients at mental health facilities expressing acute symptoms.

  • Establishes licensure for dental therapists and authorizes under certain circumstances dental therapists to perform advanced procedures under a collaborative management agreement.

  • Permits optometrists to treat glaucoma and other ocular diseases of the eye.

  • Includes a pharmacist as a healthcare provider for the purpose of integration within care teams.

  • Requires a healthcare provider to provide, prior to the receipt of health care services, notice to the patient on whether the provider is included in the patient’s health insurance network and estimated costs to the patient related to the receipt of health care services.

  • Permits a podiatrist to treat ailments of the foot and lower leg.

  • Includes oral health as a core competency for community health workers.

  • Requires community health workers to receive oral health education as a condition of licensure or licensure renewal.

  • Directs the Health Policy Commission and the Center for Health Information and Analysis to analyze and report on the state of the commonwealth’s health care delivery system, the effect of COVID-19 on health care accessibility, quality and fiscal sustainability in the short-term and the implications of those effects on long-term policy considerations.

  • Requires the Department of Public Heath to evaluate the impact of dental therapists on patient safety, cost-effectiveness and access to dental services over the first 5 years of its implementation.

Revised Guidance for Reopening Camps and Child Care Centers

State officials have eased some of the guidelines for reopening child-care centers, in-home programs, and summer camps after fielding complaints that regulations would be ruinous to small businesses and unworkable with small children.

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) has decided to encourage, but not mandate, the use of masks for children older than two and to eliminate a requirement that every child undergo a temperature check at the entrance before participating. Staff would still need to wear a mask whenever six feet of distancing is not possible.

The department also dropped the requirement requiring an extra teacher in every preschool room.

The department also dropped a change to teacher ratios that would have required two preschool teachers for every classroom of 10 children. The revised regulations return the requirement to just one teacher for every 10 preschoolers, while noting that, “to the maximum extent possible, more than one adult is recommended.”

The department is now encouraging providers to offer flexible hours and stagger their drop-off and pickup times.

DEP Regulatory Changes Regarding PFAS Laboratory Analysis

Effective on June 12, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued two regulatory changes (click the hyperlinks to access the respective Final Regulations):

Massachusetts Laboratory Certification regulations - 310 CMR 42.00: The final Laboratory Certification regulations at 310 CMR 42.05(1)(b) offer a new certification category to environmental laboratories to analyze drinking water for PFAS. Massachusetts is joining other states in certifying laboratories to conduct analysis for PFAS in drinking water.

Massachusetts Drinking Water regulations - 310 CMR 22.00: The final Drinking Water regulations at 310 CMR 22.00 now specify that laboratories certified by Massachusetts to test for PFAS and for 1,4-Dioxane in drinking water must use one of the approved methods listed for those respective analytes in 310 CMR 22.00. The approved method for 1,4-Dioxane was added because it is a contaminant regulated in Massachusetts, but not regulated by EPA.

Note that these amendments to the Drinking Water regulations do not establish a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS in drinking water. MassDEP expects to promulgate regulatory changes to create a PFAS MCL in the coming months.
MetroWest Employer Town Hall Series Now Biweekly

Area employers are invited to join the 495/MetroWest Partnership and the MassHire Metro South/West Workforce Board for our continuing discussions, occurring every other week, surrounding critical issues business are facing. We will answer questions about the various resources that are available to companies and their workers during these difficult times.

These discussions are open to any interested party, and are held every other Wednesday at 1:00 PM via Zoom. The next session will be held on June 24th; click here to sign up!

  • Jason Palitsch, Executive Director, the 495/Metro West Partnership
  • Greg Bunn, Executive Director, MassHire Metro South/West Workforce Board
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you. Partnership operations are continuing throughout the duration of the current public health crisis, with our staff working remotely. You may reach me directly via email at jason@495partnership.org .

Jason Palitsch
Executive Director
The 495/MetroWest Partnership