Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Announces Emergency Order Regarding Essential Services

23 March 2020 Blog
Authors: Donald W. Schroeder Sommer Wiss
Published To: Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Coronavirus Resource Center

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that, effective tomorrow, March 24 at 12:00 pm through April 7 at 12:00 pm, all non-essential business are to cease in-person operations (the “Order”).  All non-essential businesses have been ordered to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public.  If workers can work remotely, they are encouraged to do so.  Businesses that provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” are urged to continue operations and to do so with proper social distancing protocols in place at all times. 

Unlike orders in other states and municipalities, this Order does not contain as many restrictions on movement within the Commonwealth.  There are no restrictions on travel in the Order.  While it is not technically a “stay at home” directive, the Order does limit gatherings to ten (10) people, a reduction from the 25 person limit established in an earlier order.1

Massachusetts residents are permitted to visit: (1) medical facilities; (2) pharmacies; (3) gas stations; (4) restaurants for take-out; (5) grocery stores; (6) banks; (7) medical marijuana shops; and (8) package (liquor) stores, among other businesses providing essential services.

Governor Baker’s Exhibit A to the Order provides that “COVID-19 Essential Services” include the following industries: 

  • Healthcare, Public Health, Human Services
  • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy (electrical industry, petroleum workers, natural and propane gas workers, steam workers)
  • Water and Wastewater
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Public Works
  • Communications and Information Technology (communications, information technology)
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Financial Services
  • Chemical Sector
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Other Community-Based Essential Functions and Government Operations

Within each category listed above, Exhibit A to the Order provides an expansive list of what is an essential service within that industry. The list of essential services is based on federal guidance as well as services unique to Massachusetts. If the function of your business is not listed in Exhibit A to the Order, but you believe it is essential or that you provide an essential service, you may request designation as an essential business here.

The Order also provides that churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship may continue to operate as long as they comply with the ten (10) person limitation on gathering. Further, the Order provides that it does not apply to any municipal legislative body, the General Court, or Judiciary.

Massachusetts residents are allowed to gather in groups of more than ten (10) people in unenclosed, outdoor spaces, such as parks and athletic fields; however, athletic and recreational activities that bring participants into close, physical contact are prohibited.

According to the press release accompanying the Order, Governor Baker has directed the Department of Public Health to issue a stay at home advisory outlining self-isolation and social distancing protocols. Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary activities during the next two-weeks.

The Department of Public Health and any board of health or authorized agent will enforce the Order and, if necessary, the state or municipal police may assist with enforcement. Violations include criminal penalties or civil fines up to $300 per violation.

For more information about recommended steps, please contact your Foley relationship partner. For additional web-based resources available to assist you in monitoring the spread of COVID-19 on a global basis, you may wish to visit the CDC and the World Health Organization

Foley has created a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional team, which has prepared a wealth of topical client resources and is prepared to help our clients meet the legal and business challenges that the coronavirus outbreak is creating for stakeholders across a range of industries. Click here for Foley’s Coronavirus Resource Center to stay apprised of relevant developments, insights and resources to support your business during this challenging time. To receive this content directly in your inbox, click here and submit the form. 


 1 Governor Baker also directed the Department of Public Health to issue revised guidance concerning the limitation on gatherings to ten (10) people, which among others, lists exceptions to the ten (10) person gathering limitation.

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