Businesses scramble to reopen safely after Governor’s announcement

May 18, 2020

Dartmouth businesses are still figuring out reopening plans as Governor Charlie Baker announced more detailed guidelines to reopen the state at a press conference on Monday.

The guidelines are part of a four-phase plan to bring the state to an eventual “new normal,” Baker said. Each phase will last roughly three weeks, though the state may linger or regress if confirmed cases or deaths rise too quickly.

Phase one started on May 18, with places of worship, manufacturers, some medical services, and construction companies allowed back in business. A host of other industries and facilities — including offices and labs, retailers, beaches, recreational facilities, libraries, and hair salons — will follow on May 25, with restrictions.

But with the new state safety standards and guidelines just published today, many are scrambling to put plans in place.

“We know that many of you are excited to reschedule your forfeited visit, or to schedule a new appointment,” reads a recorded phone message at Salon B on Hawthorn Street. “Having just received guidelines and restrictions from our state government, we need time to review them, and to speak with all members of our team...Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Another hair salon, Salon En Vogue on State Road, will likely not be reopening until June 1 or 2, according to owner Lisa Leite.

“We didn't know which way to turn,” she said, noting that many salons were expecting to open in a later phase of the governor’s plan. “We’re working on ordering masks, getting all our sanitizer in, doing what we need to do, getting guidelines in place for the clients and staff.”

Leite said that although she’s been fielding a ton of calls from customers, she wants to “have everything in place and do it right” to ensure safety for everyone when the salon opens.

She also spoke with her staff at length about whether they feel safe coming back to work. “They were a little back and forth but we’re all on board now, and we’re excited,” she noted.

But it will be a struggle for her to comply with the new standards and restrictions, especially the restriction on numbers of customers. 

“We’re not gonna be totally where we used to be, as far as the client flow and the money flow,”  Leite said, adding that her bills will stay the same even as her income decreases.

“We’re gonna have to see what works and what doesn’t work and try to make it work the best we can,” she said. “It’s tough, but I feel blessed...Hopefully we can kind of get back to some kind of normalcy, and people can get back to their lives.”

Although pediatric health services are now allowed to open, the Boston Children’s Dartmouth office is still closed — and an opening date has yet to be decided, according to multiple workers.

Places of worship are also proceeding cautiously despite the governor’s order.

The Masjid Al Ehsan mosque on Cove Road won’t be reopening for prayer until leaders figure out how social distancing will work, according to outreach coordinator Martin Bentz.

“We’re not yet able to do that,” Bentz said of reopening. “We have to redesign how we do our prayers. We’re talking about it now. Some mosques are opening up, but in general we’re being a little cautious.”

He added that the mosque won’t even open for an upcoming holiday. There will be no prayers on May 23 or 24 for Eid, the feast celebrating the end of Ramadan.

“Unfortunately we’re recommending that people just do their celebrations at home with their families to minimize any kind of exposure, especially for the older congregants,” Bentz explained. “Eid is a time of great celebration, so the natural tendency is to give hugs and handshakes, and that’s just not a good idea. We don’t want out of spontaneity to put someone at risk.”

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is also taking a cautious approach. According to Rev. Scott Ciosek, his church will not be physically open until at least July, even pushing back the church’s Feast of the Pentecost, which was originally scheduled for May 31.

“Our number one priority is the health and well being of our members,” he said. “I think we’re doing the wise thing to put on the brakes and waiting a while.”

In the meantime, St. Peter’s will continue with video sermons on Facebook Live. The church’s free counseling center, The Bridge: A Center for Hope and Healing, also remains active, with clinicians offering live community on Facebook.

“The work of the church never closed,” Ciosek said. “We’re just looking for new ways to do ministry.”

Meanwhile St. Mary’s Catholic Church is awaiting instructions from the diocese to reopen, church leaders said.

Town officials will be discussing their role in enforcing the new standards this week, according to Public Information Officer Kyle Costa. The town had previously been enforcing compliance through complaints to the Board of Health, and may continue to do so.

“If necessary or the board sees fit, they’ll contact the police department,” Costa noted.

Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito said at the press conference that municipalities will be responsible for conducting checks in response to complaints and deciding on possible fines for non-compliance.

Limitations on reopened businesses include a 40 percent capacity for places of worship and 25 percent capacity for offices.

Other types of businesses and organizations opening from May 25 are laboratories, pet groomers, athletic fields and courts, car washes, beaches, parks, outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, public installations and drive-in theaters. Hair salons and barbershops will only be open for haircuts, retail stores and libraries only for curbside pickup services. 

Employers are asked to accommodate older employees or those with underlying health conditions.

Officials are working to allow daytime summer camps in Phase 2 of the plan, and residential summer camps in Phase 3 of the plan. 

To view the complete Safer At Home guidelines, visit