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Governor Baker Issues Multiple Executive Orders to Reduce Risk of COVID-19 Exposure at Restaurants, Bars & Gatherings of 25 People or More & DPH Issues Further Guidance

As part of the Commonwealth’s continued extensive response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Charlie Baker issued multiple Executive Orders on the evening of March 15, 2020. In an Executive Order Governor Baker temporarily prohibited gatherings of more than 25 people and on-premises consumption of food or drink.

Assemblage of 25 or More

Gatherings of over 25 people are prohibited throughout the Commonwealth. Gatherings subject to this Order include, without limitation, community, civic, public, leisure, and faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals, and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time in a venue such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theatre, gymnasium, fitness center, private club, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.

Any restaurant, bar, or establishment that offers food or drink shall not permit on-premises consumption of food or drink. Such establishments may continue to offer food for take-out and by delivery provided that they follow the social distancing protocols that allow individuals to stay 6 feet apart.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued the following Guidance regarding the prohibition of assemblages of more than 25 people:

The Executive Order does not apply to normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers, polling locations, grocery or retail stores, pharmacies, or other spaces where 25 or more persons may be in transit.

  • The Order does not apply to typical office environments, government buildings, or factories where large numbers of people are present, but it is unusual for them to be within arm's length of one another.
  • The Order does not apply to higher education or K-12 schools when classes are in session, provided that assemblies or classes of more than 25 people are prohibited.
  • The Order does not apply to events that exclude spectators; provided, however, that members of the media may attend the event. Athletic and other events do not need to be cancelled or postponed if spectators and other attendees are excluded. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall issue guidance governing scholastic athletic events.

Health Care and Telehealth

Governor Baker also issued an Executive Order regarding the importance of telehealth, insurance coverage for those impacted by COVID-19, and hospitals.

  • All commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services. The full order is available here.
  • Insurers must cover COVID-19 related testing and treatment without requiring cost-sharing – such as co-pays and coinsurance – of any kind.
  • Additionally, insurers cannot require prior authorization for these services.
  • All assisted living residences are to ban visitors to protect the health of residents and staff. This is in addition to the federal guidance issued on Friday that bans visitors to nursing homes and rest homes.
  • All hospitals operated or licensed by the Department of Public Health or the Department of Mental Health are to screen all visitors and restrict visitation if individuals show any indication of illness.
  • Hospitals must cancel non-essential elective procedures effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
  • Licensed pharmacies are authorized to create and sell hand sanitizer over the counter.

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Elissa Flynn-Poppey

Member / Chair, Government Law Practice

Elissa Flynn-Poppey helps prominent Mintz clients resolve issues at the intersection of law and government. She works with government agencies, individuals and nonprofits. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly recognized Elissa as one of the 2016 Top Women of Law and in 2021 the Circle of Excellence.
Kelly is a skilled litigator that advises clients on a broad range of disputes involving commercial real estate and government regulation. He has extensive experience litigating complex lease disputes, commercial evictions, permits/zoning appeals, tax abatements, property valuations, government investigations, and administrative proceedings before state and federal agencies.