The content below is supplemental to our COVID-19 alert, Massachusetts Governor Orders Temporary Closure of Non-Essential Businesses, Further Limits Gatherings, originally published on Monday, March 23, 2020.
Beginning on March 10, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has issued a series of sweeping, and in some cases, unprecedented, Executive Orders to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. These orders address the challenges facing businesses, local governments, public safety, and the provision of health care. The following is a summary of the Executive Orders highlighting the key provisions and impact of each.
Massachusetts government agencies have issued separate emergency regulations, which we are tracking separately and are available on the firm’s directory of COVID-19 resources.
We will be updating this list as the Baker administration issues additional executive orders. For more information on Governor Baker’s Executive Orders regarding COVID-19, please contact Melanie Conroy, Andrew Kaplan, or Suzanne King.
March 10, 2020
- Pursuant to the powers provided by Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950 and Section 2A of Chapter 17 of the General Laws, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts. Declaring a state of emergency allows state agencies to make faster decisions, quickly deploy more resources, and use more flexibility in responding to the outbreak. The declaration also empowers the Governor to take or authorize emergency actions at the state level, including curfews, travel bans, and business closures. Under the order, the health commissioner also has the power to enforce compliance with isolation and quarantine rules. The declaration remains in effect until further notice, and will be revisited at the end of 30 days.
March 11, 2020
- The Board of Registration in Nursing adopted new policies to expedite the processing of reciprocal license applications for nurses that are licensed in another jurisdiction to meet the urgent needs in Massachusetts to allow those applications to be processed in one business day.
March 12, 2020
- To protect the health and welfare of populations vulnerable to COVID-19, all long term care facilities shall implement procedures to screen visitors to the facility and to restrict visitation as necessary to protect the health of residents and staff. The order will remain in effect from March 12, 2020 until the state of emergency is terminated.
- Public bodies are relieved of the requirement to conduct meetings in public places that are open and physically accessible to the public, provided that public bodies make provisions to ensure public access by alternative means free of charge to the public, and public bodies may allow remote participation and suspend requirements for minimum participation by members of the body.
March 13, 2020
- Gatherings of over 250 people at the same time in any indoor or outdoor venue are prohibited throughout the Commonwealth. The order does not apply to airports, bus or train stations, medical facilities, libraries, schools, shopping malls and centers, polling locations, restaurants, business offices, government buildings, or factories, grocery or retail stores, or other spaces where the public is in transit. The order is no longer in effect.
March 15, 2020
- To protect public health, all health insurers and carriers regulated by the Division of Insurance are hereby required to allow all in-network health providers to deliver clinically appropriate, medically necessary covered services to members via telehealth. These insurers and carriers are required to cover, without any cost-sharing, all medically necessary treatments delivered via telehealth related to COVID-19 at in-network providers and may not impose prior authorization requirements on those treatments. The order will remain in effect from March 16, 2020 until the state of emergency is terminated.
- The Registrar of Motor Vehicles is authorized to extend the expiration dates of Massachusetts operators’ licenses, permits, and identification cards expiring between March 1, 2020 and the later of April 30, 2020 or the date the state of emergency is terminated. The order is effective immediately and remains in effect until the state of emergency is terminated.
- To protect patients and the healthcare workforce and conserve resources, all hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers shall implement procedures for the scheduling, cancelation and performance of non-essential elective invasive procedures. The order will remain in effect from March 18, 2020 until the state of emergency is terminated.
- Massachusetts pharmacies and pharmacists may compound and sell hand sanitizer to customers over the counter beginning immediately through the end of the state of emergency.
- All assisted living facilities shall implement procedures to restrict visitation as necessary to protect the health of residents and staff. The order remains in effect from March 17, 2020 until the state of emergency is terminated.
- All hospitals licensed or operated by the Department of Public Health or Department of Mental health shall implement procedures to screen visitors and restrict visitation as necessary to protect the health of patients and staff. The order remains in effect from March 17, 2020 until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 16, 2020
- Gatherings of over 25 people at the same time in any indoor or outdoor venue are prohibited throughout the Commonwealth, and any restaurant, bar, or establishment that offers food or drink shall not permit on-premises consumption. The March 13, 2020 order prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people is thus rescinded. The order is effective March 17, 2020 and remains in effect through April 5, 2020 unless extended. Take-out and delivery pursuant to social distancing protocols set forth in Department of Public Health guidance continues to be permitted.
- All public and private elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth, excluding residential and day schools for special needs students, shall suspend all in-person instruction and operations from March 16, 2020 until at least April 6, 2020. The order remains in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 17, 2020
- Any registrations held by a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, a pharmacist, or a physician assistant that is in good standing as of the date of the order and will expire during the state of emergency is extended and will remain valid until at least 90 days following the termination of the state of emergency.
- All physicians whose licenses will come up for renewal during the state of emergency shall have their renewal date extended until 90 days after the end of the emergency, and licenses will be reinstated or expanded for certain licensees in training, recently retired physicians, and out-of-state physicians.
- Certain requirements for the minimum staffing standards for ambulance transports are temporarily modified to ensure the continuity of emergency medical services care and to ensure sufficient personnel to staff ambulances for the duration of the state of emergency.
- All hospitals and facilities licensed or operated by the Department of Public Health are directed to immediately implement expedited credentialing procedures for licensed independent practitioners seeking to practice at the facility during the public health emergency, and all licensed clinical staff who are employed at one facility are authorized to work at any other facility.
March 18, 2020
- In response to the potential shortage of nurses to administer medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder, pharmacists and pharmacy interns licensed in Massachusetts may administer such medication in licensed opioid treatment programs during the period of the emergency, subject to certain conditions and limitations.
- Employers of physician assistance may designate a new supervising physician for any physician assistant to maximize health care provider availability and to respond to increased healthcare needs during the state of emergency.
- Local boards of health shall disclose the addresses of persons in their jurisdiction who have tested positive for COVID-10 as necessary to respond to emergency calls and not for any other purpose.
- Until at least April 6, 2020, all childcare programs in the Commonwealth must close by end of day on March 22, 2020 and may not reopen unless granted approval to provide emergency child care programs, especially to vulnerable children.
March 20, 2020
- During the state of emergency, certain inspections may be deferred as a condition to the sale or transfer of a dwelling, building, or structure provided that the parties have agreed in writing that the buyer will be responsible for immediately installing approved smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarm as a condition to taking title and any inspection that would otherwise be required is conducted no more than 90 days after the state of emergency is terminated. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
- The Registrar of Motor Vehicles is authorized to modify the terms and conditions of and extend the expiration dates of all Massachusetts operator licenses, permits, identification cards, and certificates of registration expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020 or the date on which the state of emergency is terminated, whichever is later. The Registrar and the Department of Environmental Protection are also authorized to waive compliance with motor vehicle safety and emissions inspection requirements during the state of emergency. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 23, 2020
- Directs Massachusetts residents to practice social distancing and prohibits gatherings of more than ten people in any confined indoor or outdoor space, except for a business or organization that is providing COVID-19 Essential Services, defined and listed in Exhibit A. 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. The order is effective at noon on March 24, 2020 and will remain in effect through noon on April 7, 2020, unless further extended.
- The order does not apply to municipal legislative bodies, the General Court, the Judiciary.
- Public and private elementary schools, residential schools for special needs students, and child care programs are not subject to this order 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.
March 24, 2020
- Discontinues all day programs overseen by agencies under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services that are provided in group settings and directs the adoption of alternative methods for delivering services where feasible. The order is effective from March 25, 2020 until the state of emergency is terminated.
- Permits remote processing of prescriptions by pharmacy technicians, authorizes pharmacists with out-of-state licenses to practice pharmacy in a Massachusetts licensed pharmacy or health care facility upon written approval, allows pharmacies to conserve sterile compounded garb, authorizes emergency patient prescription refills when the patient’s prescriber is not available, and permits pharmacies to engage in central filling activities. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
- During the state of emergency, a Notice of Determination of Need will not be required for approval of healthcare system expenditures to address COVID-19. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
- All hospitals are exempted from acuity-assessed staffing and nurse-to-patient ratio requirements. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 25, 2020
- Directs that grocery stores and pharmacies must: provide alternative hours for adults 60 years and older, deploy strategies to reduce COVID-19 exposure for their customers and employees, accommodate employees who fall within higher-risk populations under CDC guidelines, close for sufficient time overnight to allow for sanitizing and restocking, prohibit reusable checkout bags, and not assess a charge for recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags, or single-use plastic bags, which are all now permitted. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 26, 2020
- Permits registered nurses who hold authorization to engage in the advanced practice of nursing (APRN) to engage in prescriptive practice, with certain exemptions from the requirements of physician supervision and written guidelines for prescriptive practice. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
- Extends any professional license, certificate, or registration in good standing issued by a state agency or licensing authority for 90 days following the termination of the state of emergency. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
- For licenses, permits, or certificates issued by the Commonwealth or any of its agencies, suspends deadlines for hearings, decisions, appeals, and permits during the state of emergency and restarts the running of the applicable time period 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency. Clarifies that approval shall not be considered granted due to a failure of a state permitting agency to act within a deadline and restarts the running of the applicable time period 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency. Suspends the requirement that the Department of Environmental Protection conduct a public hearing before adopting its priority list or Intended Use Plan. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 28, 2020
- Certain MassHealth regulations regarding transfers and discharge of long-term care facility residents are waived for the purpose of safely transferring and discharging residents living in a long-term care facility that is intended to be used as a designated COVID-19 facility.
March 29, 2020
- The Department of Public Health’s Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management is authorized to perform a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) check on any volunteer who registers with MA Responds to respond to the VOCID-19 emergency without a notarized form that would otherwise be required. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
- Health care providers licensed in another state in good standing or who held a license to practice as a health care provider by Massachusetts within the last ten years will be issued a corresponding Massachusetts license valid during the state of emergency. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 30, 2020
- The Executive Office of Health and Human Services may designate, subject to the Governor’s approval, classes of providers that it determines are facing extraordinary demand, are necessary to keep vulnerable individuals safe, or have been forced to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in unanticipated ways. For designated providers, EOHHS is authorized to establish new rate and payment arrangements. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
- The prohibition on public corporations holding annual or special shareholder meetings remotely is suspended from March 30, 2020 through 60 days after the end of the state of emergency. A public company that has provided written notice of a shareholder meeting may notify shareholders of a change to a remote meeting without further written notice if it issues a press release, provides email notice, and takes other reasonable steps. The order is in effect immediately until the state of emergency is terminated.
March 31, 2020
- The Governor’s March 23, 2020 order advising residents to practice social distancing, prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people, and ordering the closure of non-essential businesses is extended through May 4, 2020. All businesses that do not provide COVID-19 Essential Services are ordered to extend the closure of their physical workspaces, and are encouraged to continue operations remotely.
- The Baker Administration also updated the COVID-19 Essential Services categories that are allowed to operate their facilities during the emergency. The new COVID-19 Essential Services list, attached to the March 31, 2020 Order as Exhibit A, is effective at noon on April 1, 2020 and replaces the previously issued Exhibit A to the March 23, 2020 closure order.
- The Governor directed the Department of Public Health to issue guidance and implement the terms of the order, and provides that any violation of the guidance will be treated as a violation of the order. That guidance provides clarification concerning the activities to which it applies.