COVID-19 UpdatesHCN News & Notes

Gov. Baker Orders All Non-essential Businesses to Close for Two Weeks

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order this morning requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 essential services” to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public from Tuesday, March 24 at noon until Tuesday, April 7 at noon. These businesses are encouraged to continue operations remotely.

The Baker-Polito administration issued a list of designated businesses and other organizations that provide essential services and workforces related to COVID-19 that may continue to operate brick-and-mortar facilities during this two-week time period. This list — based on federal guidance and amended to reflect the needs of Massachusetts’ unique economy — includes healthcare and public health; law enforcement, public safety, and first responders; food and agriculture; critical manufacturing; transportation; energy; water and wastewater; public works; communications and information technology; financial services; defense industry base; chemical manufacturing and hazardous materials; news media; and other designated community-based essential function and government operations. While these businesses are designated as essential, they are urged to follow social-distancing protocols for workers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health. 

Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order.

Restaurants, bars, and other establishments that sell food and beverage products to the public are encouraged to continue to offer food for takeout and by delivery if they follow the social-distancing protocols set forth in Department of Public Health guidance. On-premises consumption of food or drink is prohibited. 

Due to evolving spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, 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 this two-week time period.  Residents over age 70 or with underlying health conditions, who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19, should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible. 

The Baker-Polito administration does not believe Massachusetts residents can be confined to their homes and does not support home confinement for public-health reasons. However, the administration’s order limits gatherings to 10 people during the state of emergency, a reduction from the 25-person limit established in an earlier order. This includes community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, and any other event or activity that brings together more than 10 people in any confined space. The order does not prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people in an outdoor space, like a park or athletic field.

COVID-19 activity is increasing in Massachusetts. At this time, if people are only mildly symptomatic, they should speak to their healthcare provider about whether they need to be assessed in person. If not, they should stay at home while they are sick. Asymptomatic family members should practice social distancing and immediately self-isolate if they develop symptoms.