A lot of symbolism will be attached to the roses and hydrangeas we get our moms for Mother’s Day this year, and not just the usual kind. This springtime holiday, at least in Massachusetts, comes with the few rays of hope represented by businesses beginning their long journeys back from COVID-19 closures.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday gave everyone’s mom some flowers, figuratively anyway. In a quiet shift, he amended his order forcing non-essential businesses to close until May 18 to add a handful of new exemptions. Flower shops were among those included.
Florists don’t get a free pass to resume life as it was before the coronavirus swept across the land more than two months ago, leading to closures, cancellations and stay-home orders. Shops are allowed to “open,” but only to fulfill phone and online orders. Customers aren’t allowed inside.
The state also limits the number of employees who may work at any time, based on the square footage of the store. Florists and their workers must wear face masks, stand at least six feet apart, and not come into contact with customers. Also, shops must close for some period each day for cleaning.
The update doesn’t just apply to florists. Other retailers, such as bookstores and even car dealers, may open under the same terms to do business remotely.
It’s not an ideal arrangement. But it’s more flexible than what was in place Tuesday. And it’s doubtless a preview of how our economy will return, in a process sure to be drawn out, as bandages of isolation and social distancing are slowly peeled away.
That’s as it should be. Count us among those who see this new world with trepidation. It’s hard to overlook the numbers released the very same day that Baker tweaked the rules: Massachusetts reported 122 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 4,212, a number exceeded only by New York and New Jersey.
On the other hand, the number of new cases reported from one day to the next in the state is no longer surging, and businesses that can operate safely should be allowed to do so. Baker had already carved out a long list of exemptions from his March 23 order closing much of the state’s economy. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts pressed hard to expand the list to those included Wednesday.
We look forward not only to those coming back but others as well, provided that the public and their workers are protected. Signs of that finally beginning to happen make a nice addition to the gifts we send our mothers this Sunday.