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Governor Announces Rollback of Re-Opening Plan

Posted on December 8, 2020

Effective Sunday, December 13Massachusetts will roll back to Step 1 of Phase 3 under a new announcement by Governor Baker.  These changes are the result of the rate of COVID positive test cases increasing, Massachusetts hospitals experiencing capacity challenges from the rate of hospitalization and healthcare provider now facing COVID related workforce challenges.  

The return to Step 1 of Phase 3 on December 13th will also require the closure of certain businesses designated as Step 2 industries. These include indoor performance venues and certain high-contact indoor recreational businesses. In addition,  

  • Capacity limits will be reduced to 40% statewide for most industries. 
  • Outdoor gatherings will be reduced statewide from 100 persons to 50 persons. 
  • New mask, table capacity, time limit rules for restaurants 

The Governor indicated that current COVID-19 testing data reflects the need roll back the State’s Reopening Plan to flatten the curve in advance of the holiday season.  The Governor described three key goals including, preventing viral spread, create stronger mask compliance and time with others, reduce mobility. 

Contact tracing data showing spikes in certain areas and these changes being imposed are intended to help flatten the curve and prevent a statewide shut down, which some in the public health arena have been calling for.  Contact tracing data is also showing that breakrooms and lunchrooms are areas for spread. 

Click here to read the order rolling Massachusetts back to Phase III, Step 1. 

Key Issues for Businesses: 

Essential business – Need to continue to follow sector specific protocols. 

Mask Requirements: *Incorporates recent CDC guidance on mask wearing.   

  1. Require mask wearing in offices when not in your own workspace and alone. 
  2. Require mask wearing at all times in gyms 

Office Capacity: 

  1. Reduce office capacity from 50%-40% 
  2. In offices, employees must wear masks at their place of work when not in their own workspace and alone 
  3. Employers are encouraged to close or limit the use of break rooms  
  4. The Administration continues to encourage all employers to offer teleworking to their employees when possible.  

Gatherings: Hosts of outdoor gatherings of greater than 25 people will be required to provide advance notice of the gathering their local board of health.  Click here to read the revised gatherings order.

Breakrooms and lunchrooms: Massachusetts employers are being advised to review guidance and limited access to and consider closure of breakrooms and lunchrooms. 


  1. Outdoor Theaters and Performance Venues to 25% and no more than 50 people. 
  2. Reduce capacity from 50% to 40% for several industry sectors noted below: 
  3. Arcades/Indoor and Outdoor Recreational Businesses 
  4. Driving and Flight Schools 
  5. Gyms/Health Clubs 
  6. Libraries 
  7. Museums 
  8. Retail 
  9. Offices 
  10. Places of Worship 
  11. Lodging (common areas) 
  12. Golf 
  13. Movie theaters (no more than 50 people per theater) 

Impact to Restaurants: 

  1. Patrons must wear masks at all times, except when eating and drinking 
  2. Restaurants must seat no more than six patrons per table
  3. Restaurants must impose a 90-minute time limit on tables 
  4. Musical performances at restaurants will no longer be permitted 
  5. Food court seating must be closed in malls 
  6. Customers are encouraged to dine only with members of the same household.   

Closure of some businesses:  Close Indoor Theaters and Performance Venues and a few smaller indoor recreation businesses like roller rinks and trampoline parks. 

High Risk Communities:  Nearly 100 communities have been designated high risk and can find greater detail regarding what phase of reopening they are in by clicking here. 

DPH guidance on “elective surgeries”:  AIM is monitoring for when this will be posted and will share once it is available. 

Other Relevant Guidance: 

Night time closing:   An order was issued by Governor Baker on November 2nd requiring a number of businesses and activities to close by 9:30 p.m.  

Sectors subject to that order include restaurants for in-person dining; arcades; indoor and outdoor theaters, movie theaters, and performance venues; drive-in movie theaters; youth and adult amateur sports; golf facilities; recreational boating and boating businesses; casinos, horse racing tracks and simulcast facilities; driving and flight schools; zoos, botanical gardens, wildlife reserves, and nature centers; close contact personal services; gyms; indoor and outdoor pools; and museums, cultural and historical facilities and guided tours, according to a copy of the order. 

Stay at home advisory — Also last month, Baker issued an advisory urging residents to stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., leaving only to “go to work or school, or for essential needs such as seeking emergency medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up take-out food, or receiving deliveries. If you do leave home, practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others and wearing a face covering.” 

Have questions. Please contact a member of the AIM Government Affairs regarding the specific rules or the AIM HR Solutions at 800-470-6277 regarding other related compliance questions.