COVID-19 Blog Posts
House of Worship
One of the big surprises in Massachusetts phase one reopening is that house of worship can now open. There are some important rules that they must follow - at least in phase one.
This is a surprise as many churches expected to stay close through much of the summer.
- Limited capacity of occupancy in the building - at least 45% of max capacity.
- Social Distancing must be maintained while in Church. Everyone must be 6-feet from each other.
- Face Masks must be worn at all times.
- Reservations are required - so if someone is tested after service others can be informed.
- No singing during services.
- Church must be cleaned after every service.
Complexity For Churches
Many churches are excited to get parishioners back. However all the rules and restrictions are likely to defer people from attending services.
Most parishioners are older and in the key group of people that need to be careful about attending public events. They are likely going to stay home and continue to watch services via Livestream.
Churches take a risk because if a parishioner is later found to have the virus then the church will have a deep cleaning and that could cost thousands of dollars.
Massachusetts Path to Reopening
Yesterday Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker formally announced the four-step process to reopen Massachusetts to the new normal. Each step of the process should last for 3-weeks.
This means that Massachusetts will be back to the new normal around mid-July.
Boston Workers Staying Home
Starting on June 1st, Boston Office Workers can return to their offices - but only at 25% capacity. Major companies are asked to encourage workers to work from home. Prior to yesterday's announcement, several companies have made announcements to that effect:
- Wayfair - September 8, 2020
- Raytheon - No specific date on when Boston area employees will be encourage to return to the office.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield - Some offices may open but they plan to continue encouraging employees to work from home "for the foreseeable future."
- Google - Encouraging employees to work from home until the end of the year
- Twitter - Says staff can continue to work from home permanently.
Fifty-four companies in Massachusetts agreed to keep their employees home long after the restrictions are lifted. This will help the MBTA from being crowded and
Changes around the Office
There's an old saying, "You can never go home again." Well for the thousands of workers that spent time working from home over the past few weeks, the office isn't going to be the same.
As part of the new normal, there will be a lot of changes around the office. Here are just some of the changes recommended by the CDC:
- Temperature checks, Elevator Guest restrictions - Have your temperature check every morning as you walk in the building, and wait in longer lines for the elevator.
- One way hallway - Much like you see in grocery stores, workers will be encouraged to walk down the hallway in one direction. (I don't know how this will be enforced!)
- Social Distancing Desks - Things may have to be rearranged so people aren't sitting next to each other. Open Office concept isn't good for social distancing.
- Cleaner Air - Many larger building did some HVAC upgrades in April/May to help circulate cleaner air throughout the building.
The MBTA Plan
The MBTA plans to resume a modified FY20 full schedule in phase 3, which is about 6-weeks from now. This modified schedule most likely will mean no express trains.
Prior to Phase 3, the MBTA Commuter Rail will on a reduced schedule and then add additional trains in Phase 2. Currently there are only 4 trains that run in the morning,
I would expect that commuters would be waiting until after the July 4th holiday weekend to start taking the train back in - at least those that plan to visit the office.
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
Last week, I blogged about how Massachusetts Commuter Rail would return to near normal by the end of October.
This was assuming several events would happen that would help build confidence for commuters to ride the commuter rail.
- MLB Returns in July - Baseball is back things are going to be okay. It's fine that there are no fans in the stands. Baseball is back. (This looks to be on track!)
- Vaccine is Near - Sometime in September, there will be some major announcement on how one of the vaccines is showing promising signs and helping critical patients in some hospitals. (Still too early to call on this!)
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
It's a good read on what the barriers are with reopening and some of the concerns that businesses have with moving forward.
Reasons Why Commuters May Avoid the Commuter Rail
It's expected that the commuter rail may limit the number of passengers. This may cause some train delays going to/from Boston.
- Uncertain Morning Commute - If the trains restrict the number of travelers per car that means that they will now carry fewer passengers. It's possible that trains will not be able to stop at certain locations because they are "full." Commuters may want to avoid arriving late to work.
- Uncertain Evening Commute - How will the MBTA handle large crowds during the evening commute? What about happens if you miss your train, because of passenger limits?
MBTA Commuter Ridership
This is a quick content change up for the Month of May, and possibly June. COVID-19 has been the top story since early March and I thought it was about time that I added some content here about the whole Corona Virus situation.
Since March 13th, the MBTA Commuter rail ridership has dropped approximately 80-90%. This is due to the the "Stay At Home" advisory and many Boston Commuters working from home.
Last week I posted a graphic where I predict how the volume of traffic on Massachusetts' MBTA Commuter Rail will change over the next few months.
This chart shows the percent of ridership on the MBTA Commuter Rail. Whereas it was 100% in January 2020.
Here are my thoughts on the logic:
May - 20% Ridership - The "Stay at Home Advisory" will be lifted on May 18th, I don't think there will be much change for commuters going into Boston.
June - 20% Ridership - More people will start to take the commuter rail, but a lot of people will be working from home. Partly because schools are still in session until mid-June. Many summer camps will not be opened - making things difficult for parents.
July - 40% Ridership - More people will be heading into the city - but only a few days. I suspect most people won't be buying Monthly passes. Certainly, I would expect to see more people working from home on Fridays. Major League Baseball will be playing and that will help build confidence in people to venture out to work.
August - 50% Ridership - Back to School season. Some Colleges may start the Fall season with distance learning and target to reopen their campus in the Spring. This is why I predict that July and August numbers to be the same. More sports and summer camps should be running. Commuters will start heading into the office more frequently. Monthly Ticket passes sales should increase.
September - 60% Ridership - I suspect that people will have more comfort to riding the train with masks and taking "off hours" to work. I predict that toward the end of the month, a vaccine will be approved and pushed through by the FDA. (While many experts think that it may take several years, I think the timeline will be shortened.)
October - 70% Ridership - This is about as good as it gets for a while. The vaccine is being widely distributed to major hospitals around the world. Companies will be encouraging employees to return to their offices. Some workers may choose to work from home on more frequent bases.
What Do you Think?
What do you think? Do you agree with my timeline? Is it too aggressive?
I know there's some talk about some companies only bringing 30% of their workforce in at a time. I predict that it will happen for a short duration as things get figured out at work and people get adjusted to the "new normal."