Effective Friday, November 6, 2020, Massachusetts residents will be required to wear a mask or cloth face coverings at all times when in any public place, with limited exceptions.  This new directive expands upon a prior mask mandate issued by Governor Charlie Baker in May.  Under the earlier order, residents were instructed to wear face coverings in public when it was not possible to maintain six feet of social distancing.  The new order removes the distance qualification, and essentially requires people to keep their masks on at all times.  “We’re basically saying if you go out in public, wear a mask,” the Governor said during a press conference announcing the new order.  Governor Baker imposed the harsher rule in light of rising COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates in Massachusetts this fall.

The order applies to any place (indoor or outdoor) which is open to the public, including stores, public transportation, taxis and ride-sharing vehicles, public streets, and places hosting indoor and outdoor events.

People who are unable to wear a mask because of a medical or disabling condition are excused from the mask requirement.  Under the order, employers may require documentation from any employee seeking an to be excused from the mask mandate as an accommodation for a medical or disabling condition.  However, members of the public claiming a medical or disability exemption are not required to produce documentation, but the operator of a business may decline entry to any person who refuses to wear a mask for a non-medical reason.  Other limited exceptions permit people to take off their masks in public while dining in restaurants, or while alone in their personal vehicles.

The order empowers the State Department of Public Health and Local Boards of Health to enforce the mask order with assistance from State and municipal police if necessary.  People failing to comply with the order are subject to a civil fine of up to $300 per violation.

The order will remain in effect until rescinded, or until the current state of emergency is terminated.

Massachusetts employers should review the new order to determine whether policy changes are required.