On Monday, March 23, Governor Baker issued his “COVID-19 Order No. 13,” titled by the Governor as an “Order Assuring Continued Operation of Essential Services in the Commonwealth, Closing Certain Workplaces, And Prohibiting Gatherings of More Than 10 People.”
The Order shuts down non-essential business “brick-and-mortar” operations at noon today
The Order requires all businesses and other organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” must close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public as of noon on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
A closed business may not reopen for two weeks
The Order bars these non-essential businesses and organizations from permitting their brick and mortar locations to open for their workers, customers, or the public before noon on April 7, 2020.
The Order does not stop and even encourages such businesses and organizations with shuttered locations to continue operations if they can operate through remote means. The remote means used cannot require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the Order.
Insurance services appear on the Order’s listing of essential businesses allowed to operate
The Order references a listing of public, commercial, and nonprofit entities that provide necessary goods, services, and workforces that may continue to operate their brick and mortar facilities during the shutdown.
The Order notes that even though a business qualifies as essential, it still must follow social distancing protocols for workers under guidelines issued by the Department of Public Health.
Under the listing of Covid-19 essential services, insurance services, appear in the Financial Services category as businesses that may maintain their physical locations open during the two-week shutdown.
The Order prohibiting more than ten people gathering not applicable to companies allowed to stay open
The Order reduces the previously allowable gatherings of twenty-five people down to ten. This limitation applies to:
- Civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events.
- Concerts, conferences, conventions, fundraisers.
- Parades, fairs, festivals, weddings, funerals; and,
- Any similar event or activity that brings together more than ten persons in any confined indoor or outdoor space.
The ten-person limit does not apply to any athletic and recreational activities that bring participants into close physical contact. These activities are completely banned, even when involving fewer than ten people.
However, the Order states explicitly that its ten-person assembly limit “shall not apply to the operations or activities of any business or organization in its provision or delivery of COVID-19 Essential Services.” This exemption would apply to insurance services.
Also, the Order exempts any municipal legislative body, the General Court, and the Judiciary.
The Order does not restrict citizens to their homes and requires the Department of Health to issue guidelines
The Governor’s Order only applies to businesses and gatherings of ten or more individuals. In the announcement of the Order, the press release stated that the Governor’s Administration, “does not believe Massachusetts residents can be confined to their homes and does not support home confinement for public health reasons.”
The Order also directs the state Department of Health to issue guidelines to implement the terms of the Order. These will include a requirement that grocery stores and other retailers with substantial retail grocery sales establish special limited access hours during which the elderly and other vulnerable populations may have exclusive access to make grocery purchases.
Violation of Order or Guidelines carries not more than one year in prison or a $500 fine
The Governor’s authority to issue the Order derives from the “Civil Defense Act of 1950,” This law grants the Governor broad powers if he declares a state of emergency which he has done over the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under his authority, the Governor has delegated enforcement powers to the DPH, local boards of health, and their authorized agents. In enforcing the Order and the Department of Health’s guidelines, these departments may call upon the State and municipal police for assistance.
Violations of the Order of the Department of Health guidelines can have serious consequences, including:
- A civil fine of up to $300.00
- An injunction against further violations.
- A criminal fine of $500.00; or,
- Up to a year in jail.
The full text of the Order, the essential services listing, and the rules on assemblies
Below are links to the full text of the Governor’s Order and the complete list of essential services. “Insurance Services” appears in the financial service group
Click here for the full list of categories of “COVID-19 Essential Services.”
Click here for a copy of the Emergency Order.
Click here for a copy of the Guidance on Assemblages.