Governor Baker issued a new order updating the restrictions on gatherings following a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. The order, COVID-19 Order No. 46: Third Revised Order Regulating Gatherings Throughout the Commonwealth, takes effect on August 11, 2020, and caps outdoor gatherings at 50 people (down from 100) and continues the restriction on indoor gatherings at 25 people, among other requirements.

Under the new order:

  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people maximum.

  • Indoor gatherings are limited to 8 people per 1,000 square feet of accessible floor space, or a maximum of 25 people in a single, enclosed indoor space.

  • Face coverings are required anywhere more than 10 people from different households will be attending a gathering, indoor or outdoor, except for children two years old and younger and individuals with medical conditions that prevent mask wearing.

  • Those attending gatherings must maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from other participants, unless individuals are from the same household.

Gathering restrictions (indoor and outdoor) apply to public and private property, including private homes, backyards, parks, athletic fields, and parking lots. The restrictions pertain to community, civic, public, leisure, sporting events, concerts, conferences, conventions, fundraisers, fairs, festivals, road races, and other similar events or activities.

The restrictions do not apply, generally, to large, unenclosed public spaces such as beaches, parks, and recreation areas, but do govern programs, celebrations, social outings, and similar events held at such outdoor areas.

Gathering restrictions do not apply to a number of operations, including:

  • Entities operating under Phase I, II, or III reopening orders (which are subject to sector-specific restrictions).

  • K-12 schools.

  • Polling places.

  • Outdoor gatherings for political expression and religious activities.
  • Municipal legislative bodies (annual and special town meetings, town councils, and city councils).

  • The state legislature, state courts, and the federal government.

Local boards of health, municipal police, the Department of Public Health, and State Police have authority to enforce the new order. Violations of the order are subject to fines of up to $500 per violation. In addition, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and municipalities may suspend or revoke an alcoholic beverages license if a restaurant or bar has permitted a violation of the order.

In addition, Governor Baker has issued updated requirements for restaurants serving alcoholic beverages, to avoid “bars masquerading as restaurants” amid rising COVID-19 cases. While bars remain closed state-wide, restaurants may serve alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption as part of the service of food “prepared on site.” The state’s restaurant reopening standards now provide that “[p]otato chips, pretzels, and other pre-packaged or manufactured foods do not constitute food ‘prepared on-site.’ ”

Please contact a member of Mirick O’Connell’s Public and Municipal Law Group with specific questions on the Governor’s new order.