Mass. business leaders unveil potential path to reopening economy

May 1, 2020 | Boston Business Journal, Council in the News

May 1, 2020
Boston Business Journal
By Greg Ryan  – Law and Money Reporter

A group that includes some of the state’s top business leaders published a detailed outline Friday examining how to reopen the Massachusetts economy, including bringing employees back to the workplace in waves, with white-collar workers staying home the longest.

It established a goal of testing 100,000 people in Massachusetts daily, a target that would cost an estimated $60 million a month, though it did not specify where that funding would come from.

The group was convened by the Massachusetts High Technology Council (MHTC) and includes leaders from firms like Bain Capital, Ropes & Gray LLP and Ernst & Young, as well as scientists and health care executives. Bain co-chairman Steve Pagliuca and a McKinsey & Co. partner presented the group’s conclusions on a webinar Friday morning.

The group is separate from the panel appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker this week to study reopening the economy. The MHTC group published a 70-slide presentation that offers a detailed, data-driven look at the possible paths towards a return to work. The presentation, first reported by the Boston Globe, often refrains from making definitive conclusions or offering concrete timetables, though it still makes some recommendations for state officials to consider.

Who comes back to work first

As part of a first wave, officials should consider bringing back workers in the most critical sectors who cannot work from home, such as retail, public transportation, and social services and health care, according to the group — even though those workers may be among the toughest to safeguard from the pandemic.

It may be possible to further delay the return of less critical sectors like construction and manufacturing whose employees cannot work from home, although they, too, should be considered for the first wave, the group said.
At the other end of the spectrum, professionals in finance, real estate, professional services, consulting and information technology should be encouraged to continue working from home, where possible, according to the group.

Regardless of sector, officials need to carefully consider how to handle those who are older than 60 years old and those with health conditions that make a Covid-19 infection more dangerous, it said.

Expectations for employees

For those who do return to the workplace, masks may need to be mandatory, the group concluded. Even lower-quality cloth marks can significantly curtail how quickly the virus spreads, it pointed out.

The group also called on officials to consider requiring that employees certify, via a smartphone app or website, whether they are experiencing a range of symptoms that include fever, sinus pain and coughing. Employers can consider taking employees’ temperatures, though that alone is not very effective in reducing the spread of the virus and should be combined with other measures, it said.

Testing and tracing

On testing, the state should contract with one or more large diagnostics companies that can handle 100,000 tests a day and establish six to 10 centralized testing centers across the state, with results delivered the same day or the next day, according to the group. That needs to happen as soon as possible, it said.

The state should also employ approximately 5,000 to 10,000 contact tracers to find people who may have been exposed to confirmed Covid-19 cases, the group said. Right now, Massachusetts has about 1,000 contact tracers.

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