Massachusetts: State-by-State COVID-19 Guidance

March 22, 2021:

Governor Baker-Polito issued Order No. 66, which will took effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 22, 2021. Under Order No. 66 the entire Commonwealth will advance to Phase IV, Step 1, and all workplace safety rules for this step will be in effect. Specifically, the Order includes:

  • Large venues:
    • Must submit a COVID-19 Safety Plan for approval; and
    • Limit their capacity to 12% of their permitted occupancy.
  • Part of Order No. 45 was rescinded, which required any travelers entering the state to quarantine for fourteen days.

February 25, 2021:

Governor Baker-Polito issued Order No. 65, rescinding Order No. 58 as of 12:01 a.m. on March 1, 2021. Under Order No. 65, the entire commonwealth will advance to Phase III, Step 2, and all workplace safety rules for this step will be in effect. Specifically, certain indoor performance venues and indoor recreational activities are permitted to resume.

February 18, 2021:

On February 16, 2021, Governor Baker announced a target outreach initiative to twenty Massachusetts cities that have been disproportionately impacted (based on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index) by COVID-19. These cities include: Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, and Worcester.

As part of the initiative, $1 million will be allocated to the MA League of Community Health Centers to support vaccination in the states historically underserved communities. The Massachusetts department of public health will work directly with local leaders, community groups, and faith-based organizations to increase vaccine safety awareness and increase COVID-19 vaccination rates. Further, DPH is committed to helping the identified municipalities leverage state and local resources to create approaches tailored to the needs of the individual communities.

The main goals of the new initiative are as follows:

  • Increase vaccine confidence and knowledge among community engagement staff at health centers;
  • Implement dissemination of culturally relevant and linguistically diverse patient education materials; and
  • Identify and partner with local community-based organizations to provide information and tips to engage people in vaccination conversations.

Qualified health centers can apply for grants of up to $25,000 to “engage patients and community members in vaccination discussions to increase vaccine uptake in the Commonwealth’s hardest-hit communities.”

Governor Baker provided and update on COVID-19 on February 17, 2021.

January 27, 2021:

Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order No. 62, which extends the expiration of Order No. 59 until 5:00 a.m. on February 8, 2021. Under Order No. 59:

  • Gatherings are limited to 10 persons indoors and 25 persons outdoors,
  • Restaurants are limited to 25% of their seating capacity,
  • Indoor performance venues must remain closed,
  • Outdoor performance venues are limited to 25% capacity, but not more than 25 people,
  • Movie theaters are limited to 25% capacity, but not more than 50 people, and
  • Other businesses are limited to 25% of their capacities.

Additionally, the order rescinds the mandatory closing period and prohibitions on the sales of alcohol and cannabis products imposed by Order No. 53.

January 11, 2021:

Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order No. 60, which extends the expiration of Order No. 59 until 12:00 p.m. on January 24, 2021. Under Order No. 59:

  • Gatherings are limited to 10 persons indoors and 25 persons outdoors,
  • Restaurants are limited to 25% of their seating capacity,
  • Indoor performance venues must remain closed,
  • Outdoor performance venues are limited to 25% capacity, but not more than 25 people,
  • Movie theaters are limited to 25% capacity, but not more than 50 people, and
  • Other businesses are limited to 25% of their capacities.

Further information on the capacity restrictions can be found here.

January 6, 2021:

The Massachusetts state government announced that vaccines will be delivered in phases as recommended by the federal government. The phases for vaccine distribution in Massachusetts are as follows:

  • Phase 1 (December 2020 – February 2021):
    • Health care workers doing COVID-facing care
    • Long term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities
    • Police, fire and emergency medical services
    • Congregate care settings
    • Home-based health care workers
    • Health care workers doing non-COVID-facing care
  • Phase 2 (February 2021 – March 2021):
    • Individuals with 2 or more co-morbid conditions
    • Age 75+ individuals
    • Essential workers
      • Educators of young children, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workers
    • Age 65+ individuals
    • Individuals with a co-morbid conditions
  • Phase 3 (April 2021):
    • General public

December 28, 2020:

Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order No. 59, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020, superseding capacity limitations contained in Order No. 57, and Order No. 58, and will remain in effect until 12:00 p.m. on January 10, 2021. Under this order, the following apply:

  • Gatherings are limited to 10 persons indoors and 25 persons outdoors,
  • Restaurants are limited to 25% of their seating capacity,
  • Indoor performance venues must remain closed,
  • Outdoor performance venues are limited to 25% capacity, but not more than 25 people,
  • Theaters are limited to 25% capacity, but not more than 50 people, and
  • Other businesses are limited to 25% of their capacities.

December 9, 2020:

Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order No. 58, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on December 13, 2020, which rescinds Order No. 56, and will remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency has ended. Under this order all communities in Massachusetts must return to Phase III, Step I COIVD-19 Safety Rules. This will require the indoor performance venues and indoor recreational activities to close their physical locations to the public. All businesses listed in Phase I, II, and III, step 1, must continue following the approved sector-specific COVID-19 workplace safety rules.

December 8, 2020:

(Statewide): Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order No. 57, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on December 13, 2020, rescinding Order No. 54, and will remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency has ended. Under this order, the following are required:

  • Social distancing is required,
  • Private residences may not have indoor gatherings of more than 10 people or outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people,
  • Venue spaces may not have indoor gatherings of more than 25 people,
  • Venue spaces may not have outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people,
  • Outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people require prior notification to the Local Board of Health,
  • All gatherings must end, and the participants must disperse, by 9:30 p.m.

These gathering limitations do not apply to businesses that are complying with Indoor and Outdoor Events Guidance issued by the Department of Labor Standards, or those Phase I, II, III enterprises complying with sector-specific safety rules and capacity limitations.

November 9, 2020:

Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order No. 56, which took effect on November 9, 2020, rescinded Order No. 51, and will remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency has ended. Under this order, lower risk communities may continue to advance to step 2 of Phase III re-opening. Municipalities not meeting this standard and those municipalities who fail the lower risk metric later, must return to step 1 of Phase III. All businesses in step 2 of Phase III must continue following the approved sector-specific COVID-19 workplace safety rules.

November 3, 2020:

Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order Nos. 53, 54, and 55, on November 2, 2020, regarding COVID-19 protocols, gatherings, and masks. First, under Order No. 53, Section 12 license holders that remain closed may renew their licenses effective immediately without showing proof of liquor liability insurance, or proof of workers’ compensation insurance if no payroll exist at the time, and they remain closed without employees. Secondly, sections 1 and 2 of the order will be effective at 12:01 a.m. on November 6, 2020, and all parts remain in effect until rescinded or the state of emergency ends. Under section 1, various types of businesses must close no later than 9:30 p.m. and may not reopen until 5:00 a.m. Some businesses included on this list are restaurants, arcades, indoor and outdoor events, and theaters, sporting activities, fitness centers, and casinos. Under section 2, the service and sale of alcohol and cannabis is prohibited during the daily mandatory closing period for certain licensed businesses.

Secondly, Order No. 54 becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. on November 6, 2020, and all parts remain in effect until rescinded or the state of emergency ends. Under this order:

  • Social distancing is required,
  • Private residences may not have indoor gatherings of more than 10 people or outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people,
  • Venue spaces may not have indoor gatherings of more than 25 people or outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people in low-risk communities or no more than 50 people in communities that don’t qualify as low-risk,

These gathering limitations do not apply to businesses that are complying with Indoor and Outdoor Events Guidance issued by the Department of Labor Standards, or those Phase I, II, III enterprises complying with sector-specific safety rules and capacity limitations. Additionally, gatherings of more than 50 people must notify local health boards, and all gatherings must end by 9:30 p.m.

Lastly, Order No. 55 rescinds Order No. 31, becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. on November 6, 2020, and all parts remain in effect until rescinded or the state of emergency ends. Under this order persons over the age of 5 must wear a mask or cloth face covering in public whether indoors or outdoors. Public locations include stores, pharmacies, shared transportation, public streets, and event venues. The requirement does not apply to certain types of people with conditions or in conditions that may be unsafe or impede communication with people with hearing conditions.

(Worcester): The City of Worcester issued an order extending the previous order implementing temporary outdoor restaurant dining protocols, for another 60 days, or until the governor rescinds the state-of-emergency. Under the order:

  • The Worcester License Commission must expedite process applications seeking an extend their premise to provide outdoor table service and provide outdoor alcohol service,
    • This may include an extension of the service area onto a public right of way
  • Certain limitation on off-street parking and outdoor seating are suspended.

September 29, 2020:

(Statewide): Governor Baker-Polito’s issued Order No. 51 which took effect immediately on September 29, 2020, and Order No. 52, which will take effect on October 5, 2020, which will remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency has ended. Order No. 51 advances Phase III re-opening to step 2 starting October 5, 2020, for certain municipalities that have a reduced number of COVID-19 cases. Lower risk communities are those with an average daily incidence rate of 8 or less per 100,000 residents. This analysis focuses on the three most recent 14-day measurement periods. These operating procedures allow certain indoor performance venues and indoor recreational activities with contact to resume.

Under Order No. 52, social distancing at indoor and outdoor gatherings, including private residences, must be adhered to at all times. The order further limits all indoor gatherings to 25 people, and outdoor to 50 people, except event venues and public settings, which are permitted 100 people if in a lower risk community. Individual attending an event with more than 10 people must wear a face mask. The gathering requirements do not apply to religious or political expression gatherings or other entities operating in accordance to sector-specific COVID-19 safety rules.

September 2, 2020:

Governor Baker issued Order No. 49, which took effect on August 28, 2020, which will remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency has ended. This order allows the Department of Early Education to provide rules and guidance for childcare programs providing for children participating in remote education.

August 19, 2020:

(Statewide): Governor Baker-Polito’s administration announced on August 18, 2020, approximately three million dollars in additional grants to address food shortages residents of the state are experiencing as a result of the current global pandemic. This additional funding is the second round of the new Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program.

August 5, 2020:

Starting August 7, 2020, Rhode Island will be removed from the lower-risk State category contained in Governor Charles Baker’s Order No. 45, and thus, individuals traveling from Rhode Island will be required to quarantine for two weeks.

July 27, 2020:

(Statewide): Governor Charles Baker issued Order No. 45, effective August 1, 2020, which will remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency has ended. Under this order, individuals traveling in or out of the state must quarantine for 14 days unless: coming from a lower-risk State

  • The person is coming from a lower-risk State,
  • The person has received a negative result within 72 hours, or
  • Is otherwise exempted.

Violators of the order must pay a fine of five hundred dollars per day.

July 23, 2020:

Governor Baker extended his previous order pausing evictions and foreclosures for an additional sixty days, which will now expire October 17, 2020. Governor Baker-Polito’s administration also announced on July 22, 2020, that approximately three million dollars in additional grants to address food shortages residents of the state are experiencing as a result of the current global pandemic.

July 13, 2020:

Monica Bharel, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, rescinded the department’s grocery store and pharmacy operations order on Friday, July 10, 2020, effective immediately, and issued new guidance for the operation of grocery stores.

July 6, 2020:

(Statewide): Massachusetts issued COVID-19 order, Order No. 43, which begins Step 1 of Phase III of the State’s re-opening plan, effective July 13, 2020, at 12:01 AM, and will remain in effect until rescinded or the state of emergency has ended. In this phase, enterprises on Schedule A Phase III may open their brick-and-mortar premises to workers, customers, and the public. Some of these industries include:

  • Secondary education
  • Casinos
  • Horse racing
  • Fitness centers
  • Museums
  • Aquariums
  • Outdoor theatres and movie theatres, and
  • Video production facilities

June 22, 2020:

(Statewide): Massachusetts issued COVID-19 Order No. 40, which begins step 2 of Phase II of the State’s re-opining plan, effective June 22, 2020, at 12:01 AM. In this phase:

  • Personal service business may reopen, and
  • Restaurants may reopen their indoor table service
  • All other phase II restrictions under Order No. 37 continue to apply.

June 8, 2020:

Massachusetts issued two COVID-19 orders, Order No. 37 and Order No. 38, which went into effect on June 8, 2020, and are set to expire when the emergency has ended or when rescinded. Under these orders:

  • Phase II businesses may reopen their physical locations, and include:
    • Retail stores
    • Restaurants
    • Hotels, motels, and other lodging
    • Personal Services
    • Funeral homes
    • Warehouses and distribution centers
    • Golf facilities
    • Higher education
    • Restaurants may provide outdoor table service
  • Phase II businesses must certify that they are in in compliance with safety rules and sector specific rules
  • Businesses must also post all public notices and advisories
  • Most gatherings of 10 or more people indoors is still prohibited
  • Businesses must follow the sector guidelines issued by the Director of Labor Standards and the Commissioner of Public Health, and the previous COVID-19 Order No. 33.

June 4, 2020:

(Worcester): The City of Worcester issued an order to expedite the expansion of restaurant outdoor seating areas. This order took effect on June 3, 2020 and will remain in effect until November 1, 2020. Under this order:

  • The Worcester License Commission must expedite process applications seeking an extend their premise to provide outdoor table service and provide outdoor alcohol service
    • This may include an extension of the service area onto a public right of way
  • Certain limitation on off-street parking and outdoor seating are suspended

June 2, 2020:

Massachusetts issued COVID-19 Order No. 35, which went into effect on June 1, 2020, and is set to expire November 1, 2020, or when rescinded. Under this new order:

  • Phase II businesses may reopen their physical locations immediately, and include:
    • Retail stores
    • Restaurants
    • Hotels, motels, and other lodging
    • Personal Services
    • Funeral homes
    • Warehouses and distribution centers
    • Golf facilities
    • Higher education
  • Phase III businesses include:
    • Casinos
    • Fitness centers and health clubs (excluding saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms)
    • Theatres and performance venues of moderate capacity
  • Phase IV businesses include
    • Amusement and theme parks
    • Saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers
    • Bars, dance clubs, and nightclubs
    • Beer gardens, breweries, wineries, and distilleries
    • Large capacity venues
    • Private party rooms
    • Festivals and parades
  • Businesses must follow the sector guidelines issued by the Director of Labor Standards and the Commissioner of Public Health, and the previous COVID-19 Order No. 33.

June 1, 2020:

(City of Boston): The City of Boston released their Return to Workplace Framework for commercial spaced in the city. This framework consist of recommendation for businesses, employers, and commercial landlords as the city continues reopening.

(Statewide): Governor Baked announced on Friday that he would be signing an additional executive order to which would lift some restrictions while still in Phase I of their reopening. The order will allow some Phase II employers to bring employees back in prior to the start of Phase II. The order will also provide additional requirements for Phase II businesses when they are permitted to open next week on June 8th.

May 26, 2020:

(Worcester): The City of Worcester announced the reopening of parks and recreational activities. In its announcement the City included guidance for the reopening of Hope Cemetery, non-contact sporting courts and fields, and trails and walkways.

May 19, 2020:

Governor Baker issued COVID-19 Order No. 33, effective immediately. The order permits the opening of certain businesses beginning on May 18, 2020, which include:

  • Essential services
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Places of worship
  • Firearms retailers and shooting ranges

Additional other businesses may open beginning on May 25, 2020, including:

  • Businesses operating in office spaces
  • Car washes
  • Hair salons and barber shops
  • Pet groomers
  • Drive-in Movie theaters
  • Laboratories
  • Certain indoor recreational facilities and actives

The order requires any business operating in Massachusetts to develop, train, and implement social distancing protocols and perform regular cleaning and sanitizing, among other measures, including:

  • Provide signage indicating appropriate social distancing
  • Require face coverings for all employees
  • Regularly sanitize high-touch areas
  • Clean and disinfect if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19

Businesses able to open now that were not open before must certify their compliance with the general requirements and any sector specific rules enacted by the Director of Labor Standards and post on their premises all public notices and advisories required under this order.

Additionally, under this order, gatherings are still limited to 10 people

(City of Boston): The City of Boston announced Monday that although the state is permitting certain businesses to reopen, including construction, the City will limit construction activities to work on schools, hospitals, some residential work, and open-air construction until May 25. Under the City’s safety policies, construction activities included in the above list must submit a COVID-19 Safety Affidavit and provide the City with a COVID-19 Safety Plan.

May 18, 2020:

(Statewide): Baker-Polito announced a reopening 4 phase plan, developed by the Reopening Advisory Board. The state is currently under an essential business and services say-at-home order. When the reopening begins, phase 1 will allow limited industries to resume operations, with each phase lasting at least 3 weeks, but to be determined based on public health data. The plan can be viewed here.

May 14, 2020:

Governor Baker announced a four phase reopening plan for the State of Massachusetts, which is hoped to begin May 18th.

Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Monica Bharel issued an order, effective immediately and until the State of Emergency is terminated. The order suspends certain statutory provisions which require a nurse aide in the State of Massachusetts to complete the nurse aide training within 90 days of beginning employment. Under this order a long-term care facility must ensure nursing aids are competent to provide nursing services.

May 11, 2020:

(City of Boston): Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced no parades or festivals would take place in the city through September 7, 2020.

May 6, 2020:

(Statewide): Governor Baker announced the state could be opening on May 18, 2020, when the current order expires if the number of cases has trended down.

May 1, 2020:

Governor Baker has ordered all residents to wear a face covering or mask in public places where maintaining proper social distancing measures is not possible. The order applies to all workers and customers of businesses currently open to the public as essential businesses. Residents must also wear a mask when using any means of transportation service or public mass transit.

April 28, 2020:

Governor Baker extended the essential services emergency order to May 18. This Order required all businesses and organizations that do not provide COVID-19 Essential Services to close their physical workplaces. The Order also extends the existing ban on gatherings of 10 or more people until May 18.

The Stay at Home Advisory remains in effect. Residents are strongly urged to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and unnecessary person to person contact.

Governor Baker also announced the formation of a Reopening Advisory Board, which is made up of public health officials, leaders from the business community, and municipal governments from across the Commonwealth. The Board will develop a report by May 18 to include workplace safety standards, industry frameworks, customer protocols, and enforcement mechanisms. The administration made clear that though the report is due on May 18, this does not mean that the re-opening will occur on that date, and instead the re-opening will depend on public health data.

April 20, 2020:

Governor Baker announced that residents who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits may now apply for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. The federal program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for those who are unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason but are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, including self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with limited work history.

April 15, 2020:

Governor Baker announced new steps to support long term care facilities, including $130 million in new funded, expanded testing, PPE distribution, rapid response clinical teams, and crisis management support.

April 14, 2020:

Governor Baker announced a new initiative, including $10 million in funding, to support manufacturers’ efforts begin production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical devices and supplies. The Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (M-ERT) will coordinate the response. Companies can apply for grants for equipment, materials, supplies, and workforce training and other needs. M-ERT will assist manufacturers in determining what supplies are most needed, ensuring FDA compliance, addressing specifications and testing, and training workers, among others.

April 9, 2020:

Governor Baker signed three Executive Orders on April 9. COVID-19 Order No. 23 permits an expedited licensure of physicians that are graduates of an International Medical School that have completed at least two years of postgraduate medical training. The Order is effective immediately and until the state of emergency is terminated, unless rescinded. COVID-19 Order No. 24 permits students who have graduated from nursing programs and senior nursing students in their last semester of programs approved by the Board of Registration in Nursing may practice in the state if they are supervised by licensed medical personnel.

Finally, COVID-19 Order No. 25 requires insurers to cover all medically necessary emergency department and inpatient services, including professional, diagnostic and laboratory services, related to COVID-19 at both in-network and out-of-network providers. The Order specifies that insurers shall reimburse hospital providers with whom they have a contract, but do not participate in the member’s health plan, at the contracted rate, and shall reimburse hospital providers with whom they do not have a contract at a rate of 135% of the Medicare reimbursement rate in the geographic region.

April 7, 2020:

Governor Baker announced a new financial package to support health care providers, including an additional $800 million in support. The funds will be available for distribution starting this month and through July, and include more than $400 million to hospitals to address lost revenue and increased costs during COVID-19 treatment. He also announced new testing measures making testing more accessible.

April 5, 2020:

(Boston): In recent days, Boston has set up a small business relief fund and also pledged $3 million to help people pay rent and mortgages. The city has also issued a public health advisory including a curfew advisory for all residents and visitors to stay home between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am and to refrain from grocery shopping or outdoor physical activities during those hours. The city also requested that everyone wear a mask or scarf in public. The advisory is in effect from 9:00 pm on April 6 until 11:59 pm on May 4.

April 1, 2020:

Governor Baker has extended the Emergency Order requiring all non-essential businesses to close, and updated their list of “COVID-19 Essential Services” list based on the newly updated CISA guidelines. The order is now in place until May 4.

March 25, 2020:

The city of Boston has released resources online dedicated to helping small businesses, including a survey and registry for small businesses deemed essential to let the public know they are open.

March 24, 2020:

Governor Baker issued a Shelter-At-Home Emergency Order  yesterday that goes into effect at 12:00 noon today, March 24 and remains in effect through 12:00 noon on April 7, 2020, unless further extended. Exhibit A to the order defines essential services to include healthcare and human services, law enforcement, food and agriculture, public works and infrastructure including water, energy, information technology, hotels, critical manufacturing, financial services, and chemical sectors, among others.

March 19, 2020:

Governor Baker announced that Massachusetts is not planning a force shelter in place. 

March 18, 2020:

Governor Baker issued an emergency order temporarily closing child care programs. Other orders issued on this same day involved sharing critical information with first responders, and the flexible reassignment of Physicians’ Assistants.

March 16, 2020:

Governor Baker announced a $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund providing emergency funds of up to $75,000.

Governor Baker issued an emergency order limiting gatherings to 25 people and prohibiting on-premises consumption of food until April 6.  The governor also issued a 3-week suspension of school operations. The same day, the Massachusetts Department of Health issued a number of orders governing visiting restrictions at hospitals and assisted living facilities, and requiring that hospitals cancel all non-essential elective procedures.

March 10, 2020:

Governor Baker declared a state of emergency and imposed broad restrictions on travel for state employees. Under current procedures, the Public Health Council has authorized the Commissioner of Public Health to institute emergency orders.