Effective at noon on March 24, 2020, Massachusetts will become the latest state to close non-essential businesses in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.  As covered here previously, Connecticut and New York issued substantially similar executive orders in days immediately prior.  The Massachusetts order identifies “essential” businesses, orders the closing of non-essential businesses and organizations, and prohibits gatherings of more than ten people, with limited exceptions.  The order will remain in effect until April 7, 2020, but will likely be extended at a later date.

Massachusetts essential services are comprehensively set forth here.  The order also affirmatively encourages non-essential business to “continue operations remotely” where possible, and specifically encourages food and beverage establishments to offer take-out and delivery services, so long as social distancing can be maintained.

The essential services guidance is subject to amendment, but appears to be much more detailed than New York or Connecticut’s materially substantially similar orders.  Each state’s respective order appears to be based upon advisory federal guidance.  We urge you to review the Massachusetts list in full to assess whether your services, or the services you are seeking, are essential.  Several categories of services are deemed essential and summarized as follows:

  • Healthcare, Public Health, and Human Services: In addition to the front-line medical personnel battling COVID-19, the order explicitly deems essential many classes of services that support them, including but not limited to, blood donors, hospital administrators and support staff, workers in non-COVID-19-related in-patient and out-patient facilities, pharmacy employees, workers who support economically disadvantaged populations, and mortuary workers.
  • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and First Responders: Police and Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Technicians, 911 operators, and various employees that support those functions.
  • Food and Agriculture: In addition to employees at supermarkets and restaurants, all manner of workers who impact the food supply chain, including food manufacturers, farm workers, workers supporting seafood and fishermen, food testing lab employees, and animal agriculture employees, are essential.
  • Energy: Workers related to electricity, petroleum, natural and propane gas, and steam are deemed essential.
  • Transportation and Logistics: Services related to ground, air, rail, and water transit are essential. Amongst the essential explicitly included are (1) rental car operators, and (2) automotive repair shops, (3) mass transit workers, and (4) public and private postal and shipping workers.
  • Public Works: Includes workers that support public works systems including roads, bridge and sewers, as well as “plumbers, electricians, exterminators, inspectors and other service providers” that may fix problems at your residence.
  • Communications: Employees that support communications infrastructure, the media, and customer support staff are amongst the essential.
  • Information Technology: Workers who provide public or private information technology services, and support staff required for them, including janitorial personnel, are essential.
  • Other Community Based Essential Functions and Government Operations: This broad category contains varied services including weather forecasters, educators, hotel workers, critical government workers, workers in sober homes, pet supply stores, laundromats, and places of worship. If you do not see your business function listed elsewhere, check this category carefully.
  • Critical Manufacturing: “Workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains including personal protective equipment and hygiene products, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, and the defense industrial base.”
  • Hazardous Materials: Nuclear facility and other hazardous materials workers are essential.
  • Financial Services: Workers essential to financial systems and consumer access to money.
  • Chemical: Workers supporting the chemical and industrial gas supply chains.
  • Defense Industrial Base: Workers who support the federal government and military.

If not listed, business may request an essential designation through the following link: https://www.mass.gov/forms/essential-service-designation-request. Related questions can be submitted to covid19.biz@mass.gov.

Murtha attorneys are available (remotely) to help you and your business make sense of Massachusetts’ guidance during these trying times.