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April 2020

Massachusetts COVID-19 Order No. 21, Order Extending the Closing of Certain Workplaces and the Prohibition on Gatherings of More than 10 People

April 2, 2020

On March 31, 2020 Governor Baker extended the non-essential business stay-at-home order, COVID-19 Order. 13 to May 4, 2020.  COVID-19 Order No. 21 acknowledges the continued increase of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths in Massachusetts. In his press announcement, the Governor emphasized the importance of remaining diligent regarding social distancing over the next two weeks to effectively respond to the outbreak.  The Order is available in full here.

On March 28, 2020 the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency updated its guidance on identifying critical infrastructure sectors whose workers provide services and functions that are essential to maintain in order to support a strong response to the pandemic.  In response, Order No. 21 adds some essential services to the list.  The list, available in full here, expanded the categories for the following services: 

1. Health Care/Public Health/Human Services

  • Added chiropractors and optometrists
  • Workers providing disinfectant and sanitation services
  • Provided clarity around the supply chain that supports other essential services to include supply chain support from beginning/sourcing to end/delivery

2. Other Community Based Essential Functions and Government Operations

  • Hotel, motel, and short-term rentals (including Airbnb) may only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, such as front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been otherwise displaced from their residences. See related guidance here.

If you believe your business should be deemed “essential” or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an essential business by completing the form located here.

Acknowledging the sacrifices everyone is making in the face of the pandemic, the Governor noted that communications with the business community are ongoing.  Those discussions led to a “Frequently Asked Question” document compiled by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, available here, that provides useful additional information for businesses to evaluate in determining how to proceed.

What Else does Order No. 21 Cover?

On March 20, 2020, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency, giving the Administration more flexibility to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.  Since then, a series of Orders addressing response to COVID-19 that range from school closures to professional license extensions have been issued.  The full list or orders and guidance is here.

Order No. 21 also extends the limit on gatherings of 10 people to May 4, 2020. This limit includes community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events and any similar event or activity that brings together more than 10 persons in any confined indoor or outdoor space.  The Order does not prohibit gatherings of more than 10 persons outside in unconfined spaces, provided social distancing practices are being utilized.

The Order also directs the Departments of Public Health, and Transportation and Capital Asset Management to issue appropriate guidance to implement and enforce the orders, which will be available on the state’s website when completed.

Changes to Your Workforce

The extension, adding nearly a month to the original closure of many brick and mortar business locations, may cause businesses to consider changes to their workforce in response to the economic impact of the pandemic.  Consider all of your options carefully, including how you communicate with your employees regarding the rationale of your decisions and any future assurances. For a discussion of options, see our previous update here.

Visit our COVID-19 Hub for ongoing updates.

Employment Law

Employment Law