Massachusetts Governor Orders Temporary Closure of Non-Essential Businesses, Further Limits Gatherings

On Monday morning, March 23, Governor Baker issued an executive order, COVID-19 Order No. 13, which expanded on previous executive orders already in place throughout the Commonwealth. COVID-19 Order No. 13 is effective at noon on March 24, 2020 and will remain in effect through noon on April 7, 2020, unless further extended.  The order supersedes any local order, so if there is a conflict between a city order and Order No. 13, Order No. 13 governs.

COVID-19 Order No. 13 directs Massachusetts residents to practice social distancing and prohibits gatherings of more than ten people in any confined indoor or outdoor space, except for the operations or activities of any business or organization that is providing COVID-19 Essential Services. COVID-19 Order No. 13 does not prohibit gatherings in unenclosed, outdoor spaces such as a park, athletic field, or parking lot if there is no close, physical contact.

COVID-19 Essential Services, as determined by the Baker Administration, are listed in Exhibit A to COVID-19 Order No. 13. Following many other states that have issued closure orders, the Essential Services closely track recommended federal guidelines, but they are not identical.  All businesses and organizations that do not provide COVID-19 Essential Services are ordered to close their physical workspaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public and are encouraged to continue operations remotely. Restaurants, bars, and other establishments that offer food or beverages to the public may provide takeout and delivery services if they follow social distancing protocols, but may not permit on-premises consumption.  Businesses that remain open should follow the CDC guidelines for workspaces.

COVID-19 Essential Services include:

  • Health care, biopharma, public health, and human services
  • Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
  • Food, beverage, agriculture, and pharmacy supply
  • Electricity, petroleum, natural gas, propane, and steam distribution
  • Water and wastewater infrastructure
  • Transportation and logistics operations
  • Communications and information technology
  • Critical manufacturing and hazardous materials
  • Chemical and industrial supplies
  • Defense industrial supply
  • Financial services operations
  • Community and government operations for essential functions

For specific guidance, please see the text of Exhibit A to COVID-19 Order No. 13.

If a business is not listed in Exhibit A to COVID-19 Order No. 13, but may be providing essential services or functions, a request for designation as an essential business may be submitted through the following online form.

For essential businesses involved in any petroleum-related business, emergency anti-price gouging rules are also in place for Massachusetts.  Those rules can be found here.  Stricter pricing rules may be in place for any sales to public authorities, including municipalities and public health facilities.

COVID-19 Order No. 13 does not apply to municipal legislative bodies, the General Court, or the Judiciary. Public and private elementary schools, residential schools for special needs students, and child care programs are not subject to COVID-19 Order No. 13 and remain subject to the Governor’s March 15, 2020 Order Temporarily Closing All Public and Private Elementary and Secondary Schools and March 18, 2020 Order Temporarily Closing All Child Care Programs, which provide separate exceptions.

Pierce Atwood’s COVID-19 Response Team continues to track all Executive Orders issues for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Baker Administration. For a complete list, please visit our related coverage, available here.


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