April 18, 2021

Volume XI, Number 108


April 16, 2021

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COVID-19: Comfort Zones - Overview of Business and Social Restrictions in New England - Updated March 31

Last updated: April 5, 2021. Please note that these restrictions change frequently – we will be keeping this alert updated, so please check back regularly for updates or refer to state websites. Please also note that some localities have stricter rules.

New England states have shifted away from their phased reopening plans in favor of sector-specific guidance and broad capacity and gathering restrictions. A summary of current orders, business openings and restrictions, and limits on social gatherings is outlined below. A quick reference chart on key elements across New England is available here and our alert on travel restrictions is available here.

The CDC requires all passengers and operators to wear face coverings while using all methods of public transportation, with limited exemptions, including while waiting, boarding, and traveling on planes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and other public modes of transportation. The White House also issued an executive order requiring face coverings to be worn in all federal buildings. Violators can face both civil and criminal penalties, although the CDC has said it intends to rely primarily on civil enforcement mechanisms and denial of service (for example, those who do not wear masks will not be allowed on public transportation).  These penalties can be enforced by state and local authorities as well as federal.








State of Emergency Duration

April 20

April 15

Until rescinded

April 16

April 14

April 15

Early business closure

11:00 pm




11:00 pm for bar area of restaurants, 12:00 am for food service

10:00 pm for restaurants

Remote work requirement

Encouraged where possible



Encouraged as much as is practical

where possible

Required where possible

Office capacity

Maintain social distance

Greater of 50% or 50 people

Up to 50%

Maintain social distance

Up to 50%

Up to 50% or 1 person per 100 sq ft (max. of 75 people)

COVID screening required by business


Employees and customers



Employees and customers


Cross-border travel restriction

No state-specific requirements

10-day quarantine or negative test

Quarantine or testing recommended but not required

Quarantine or testing recommended but not required

10-day quarantine or negative test

14-day quarantine, or 7-day and negative test

Face coverings in public







Vaccination Eligibility¥

Age 16+

Age 50+

Age 60+

Age 40+

Age 60+

Age 50+

Penalties for non-compliance

$100 for masks; $250 for attending gatherings, $10,000 for hosting nonresidential gatherings

$1,000 for individuals; up to $10,000 for businesses

Up to $300 for masks and workplace violation; $500 for each person over gathering limit

$1,000 for reckless violation; $2,000 for failure to comply w order; $1,000 for failure to cooperate in investigation or cease operations

$100 for first offense; $250 for second; $500 for third

Up to $1,000 per violation




































♦ or less if necessary to maintain proper social distancing protocols
∞ screening for customers / visitors only for certain sectors, such as gyms and fitness facilities
† see our alert on travel restrictions for additional requirements and exemptions
* in public settings where 6 feet of physical distance cannot be maintained

¥ see links for other eligibility criteria, including by profession and medical conditions


Effective March 19, all businesses and organizations return to 100% capacity, except as listed below. Note that it is the right of the operator/owner to operate below 100% capacity if they choose. Further, 6 feet of spacing and social distancing is still required where possible, and masks continue to be required in all public settings where social distancing is not possible, in addition to other safety requirements:

  • Offices: full capacity; employees still encouraged to work from home where possible; face coverings required
  • Restaurants: full capacity; six feet of spacing between tables with a maximum of eight people per table; bars serving beverages only remain closed
  • Religious gatherings: full capacity per Order 10D
  • Sports and fitness facilities: full capacity
  • Outdoor events (including amphitheaters, tents, race tracks, etc.): subject to 200 person cap if hosting a private gathering; up to 50% capacity, capped at 10,000 people effective April 2
  • Indoor performing arts venues: up to 50% capacity only seated audiences allowed; subject to 11:00pm closing time
  • Indoor recreation (including bowling and movie theaters): up to 50% capacity, capped at 100 people; face coverings and social distancing required; sale of concessions permitted at movie theaters

An overview of the capacity guidance, which supersedes any conflicting guidance in the sector-specific links, is available here. Outdoor organized gatherings open to the public may have up to 500 people. Private social and recreational gatherings have the following restrictions:

  • Commercial venue: up to 50% capacity, capped at 100 people indoor; cap of 200 people outdoor
  • Private residence: cap of 25 people indoor, 100 people outdoor

Guidance is available for the following sectors: hotels and lodgingfilm, television, and media productionhair salons and other personal serviceslibrariesmuseums and zoos, and retail. A list of essential businesses is available here. The Governor also recently issued an order for an early opening of fishing season.

Connecticut currently requires face coverings to be worn in all public settings, indoor and outdoor, where social distancing cannot be maintained, and at all times while using public transportation. Exemptions are in place for children under the age of two, and for people with medical conditions (with documentation that they cannot wear a mask). Sector-specific guidance linked above includes the requirement for employers to conduct a daily health check of all employees working on premises to confirm that the employee has not been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

The business curfew of 11:00pm is still in place for restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues, and indoor and outdoor events at commercial venues.

All sports are allowed to practice and compete, and tournaments are now permitted as well. New guidance for youth and amateur sports removes restrictions based on risk categories and encourages organizers to consider frequency and duration of contact, whether the activity is indoors or outside, the size of teams, and the type of activity. Any indoor athletic activity, as well as those occurring outdoors if it involves frequent close contact between participants, requires the use of a mask that completely covers the nose and mouth; this applies to participants, coaches, officials, and spectators. The guidance also includes recommendations for Spring 2021 interscholastic, club, and recreational athletics. 

Order 9B authorizes local officials, including state and municipal police officers and public safety departments of high education institutions, to issue fines for certain violations of COVID-19-related orders and regulations, including a $100 fine for violations of the mask requirements and other sector rules, and a $250 fine for persons who attend gatherings in violation of size restrictions. Order 9N outlines additional enforcement authority regarding violations of size and capacity restrictions. Owners or those in control of nonresidential properties who violate size or capacity limitations are subject to a civil penalty of $10,000 per violation. Private gatherings in homes and religious and worship gatherings remain subject to sector-specific guidance but are generally not subject to the penalty.

Please refer to our alert for updated quarantine and travel guidance. Connecticut’s state of emergency is currently in effect through April 20, 2021.


The Moving Maine Forward Plan (Order 35) includes the following changes to gathering and business, effective March 26:

  • Indoor gatherings and businesses: up to 50% of occupancy, five persons per 1,000 square feet, or 50 persons, whichever is greater (occupancy capacity will increase to 75% on May 24)
  • Outdoor gatherings: up to 75% (will increase to 100% on May 24)

The following guidance, subject to the capacity changes listed above, is also in effect:

  • Offices: subject to general guidance, persons in shared space are subject to limits for indoor gatherings or less to maintain six feet of physical distance; telework encouraged
  • Restaurants: capacity includes front-of-house staff; music and entertainment allowed in certain circumstances; tables must be spaced six feet apart
  • Religious gatherings: subject to indoor business and outdoor gathering capacity limits
  • Gyms and fitness: indoors up to 50% of occupancy or 50 persons, whichever is greater (occupancy capacity will increase to 75% on May 24)
  • Retail: up to five people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space

Also as of March 26, bars and tasting rooms were permitted to open, and are subject to restaurant guidance. Face coverings and physical distancing are still required between those not of the same household. Additionally, guidance for performing arts venues has been revised to allow singing, provided certain health protocols are followed.

Guidance is also available for the following  sectors: museumsconstructiongolfgyms and fitnesshotels, and personal services, including hair and nail salonstanning, and spa/close-contact services. A list of essential businesses is available here. Maine currently requires face coverings to be worn in all public settings, indoor and outdoor, even where persons are able to maintain six feet of distance from others. Children under the age of two are exempt, but there are no other exemptions while indoors. Sector-specific guidance states that employees should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure risk; certain sectors, such as gyms and fitness facilities, expand the screening questions to visitors and customers as well. Owners and operators of all indoor public settings, regardless of the type or size, are required to enforce the face covering requirement and must deny entry to those who refuse to comply.

Participation in community sports is allowed based on risk level and level of play. Note that professional and collegiate sports and events have separate guidelines. Additional rules are in place for ski areas.

Maine’s attorney general and Department of Health and Human Services issued joint guidance to businesses regarding enforcement, particularly with respect to mask wearing, and potential consequences of noncompliance. Of particular note is that individuals can be charged criminally for not wearing a face covering in a public setting after being warned by a law enforcement officer to do so. Generally, noncompliance with the governor’s executive orders can be a Class E crime punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for individuals and up to $10,000 for businesses.

Please refer to our alert for updated quarantine and travel guidance. Maine’s state of emergency is currently in effect through April 15, 2021.


On March 22, Massachusetts entered Phase 4 Step 1 of its reopening. Gatherings at private venues remains limited to a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, while gatherings at event venues and in public settings may now have 100 people indoors and up to 150 people outdoors. The following capacity limitations are in place statewide, unless localities have more stringent restrictions:

  • Offices: up to 50% capacity; telework encouraged where feasible
  • Restaurants: no capacity limitations; six people per table maximum, seated dining limited to 90 minutes
  • Places of worship: up to 50% capacity; workers/staff excluded from occupancy count
  • Theaters and performance venues: up to 50% capacity capped at 500 people; movie theaters capped at 250 people

Phase 4 Step 1 permits the opening of exhibition and convention halls and other large capacity venues (stadiums, arenas, etc. with capacity over 5,000) may open, with submission of a COVID-19 Safety Plan, at 12% of capacity, not including workers and staff employed by the venue. Prior limitations on spectators at professional sports events have also been lifted. Overnight camps will also be able to operate for summer 2021. Phase 4 Step 2 expects to see opening of amusement and theme parks, saunas and steam rooms at fitness club, bars and nightclubs, and beer gardens and breweries that do not also serve food.

The following businesses may operate at 50% capacity: close contact personal services, casinos, retail, indoor golf facilities, libraries, common areas of lodging facilitiesarcadesfitness and health clubsmuseums and cultural facilities, and any other sector not addressed. Workers and staff on-site at restaurants and close-contact personal services do not count toward the capacity limitations. A quick-review of the capacity and gathering limits is available here

The gathering and capacity limits apply to all social, community, and leisure events, as well as conferences, conventions, fundraisers, and other similar events. All such venues and events must comply with the gathering limitations in the order and the relevant sector-specific guidance. The gathering restrictions do not apply to federal government entities, health care facilities, or workplaces or facilities with specialized functions such as public and private schools, residential and day schools for special needs students, or Department of Correction facilities. A list of essential businesses is available here.

Note that a number of communities in Massachusetts have enacted additional restrictions locally to combat COVID-19 spread in those areas. For example, while Boston is following many of the same increases in capacity limits for Phase 4 Step 1, public gatherings have only increased to 60 people indoors and 100 people outdoors (lower than the state's limits of 100 and 150 people, respectively).

Massachusetts currently requires face coverings in all public places, even where persons are able to maintain six feet of distance from others. Exemptions exist for children under the age of five and for persons who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical or disabling condition, but allows employers to require employees to provide proof of such a condition. Most sector-specific guidance requires employers to screen workers prior to each shift to ensure that they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and have not had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19; any employees who meet that criteria must be sent home.  Mandatory safety standards for all workplaces are available here.

Violations of business restrictions may be subject to a fine of up to $300 per violation, the same amount for violations of the state’s mask orders. A fine of up to $500 may also be assessed for each person above the limit at a gathering.

Please refer to our alert for updated quarantine and travel guidance. Massachusetts’ state of emergency is currently in effect until rescinded by the governor.


New Hampshire remains subject to the Stay at Home 2.0 guidance, which regulates reopening of non-essential businesses. The current capacity restrictions are in place:

  • Offices: open if essential, guidance per Universal Guidelines
  • Restaurants: no more than 10 persons per table, with six feet between tables; outdoor seating under tents with tent sides partially closed permitted with certain conditions; bar areas open with social distancing between groups, including use of barriers; small group bands permitted with 10 feet of distance between performer and audience (8 feet for DJs and solo artists) 
  • Places of worship: may operate at full capacity with social distancing measures
  • Gyms and fitness: up to 50% occupancy or lower to maintain six feet of distancing; 6 feet of space required between machines; group activities outside of structured classes limited to 10 people 
  • Retail: may operate at full capacity with social distancing measures

All businesses must also comply with the state’s Universal Guidelines, which include additional industries including golf courses, libraries, museums and galleries, and outdoor attractions. Guidance is also available for the following: ski areaslodging operationsmovie theaterscharitable gamingbowling and entertainment centersperforming arts venues, and personal services, including cosmetology, and massage. A list of essential businesses is available here.

Employers must develop a process for screening all employees prior to each shift in the workplace, including illness and risk screening questions for COVID-19 symptoms and travel or exposure risk. All employees must also have a temperature below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit before being allowed on site. New Hampshire currently requires face coverings in all public spaces, including private property, where six feet of distance from persons outside ones household cannot be maintained. Exemptions exist for children under the age of five, for those with medical conditions that prevent mask-wearing, educators and students within K-12 schools, and persons giving a presentation or performance for an audience, among others.

Guidance for amateur and youth sports generally permits practice and competition and includes conditions for participation with or by non-New England athletes or teams. International teams must certify in writing that they have quarantined for 10 days prior to arriving in the state. There is also in-state guidance for hockey and indoor ice arenas, with separate NCAA Safety Guidance controlling for collegiate hockey programs.

Order 65 details enforcement mechanisms of all COVID-19 related orders and regulations, including a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation or day that a violation continues.

Please refer to our alert for updated quarantine and travel guidance. New Hampshire’s state of emergency is currently in effect through April 16, 2021.


The Protecting Your Household guidance contains the following capacity restrictions (which supersede sector-specific guidance where the two conflict):

  • Offices: up to 50% or lower to maintain physical distancing standards; remote work preferred where possible
  • Restaurants: up to normal operating capacity, limited to two households per table up to eight people indoors (10 people per table outdoors); bar areas in restaurants open following guidance, including closure at 11:00 pm or 12:00 pm if food is being served
  • Houses of worship: up to 75% of capacity
  • Gyms and fitness centers: one person per 50 square feet indoors, with six feet of distance between persons not of the same household; indoor classes permitted with appropriate spacing
  • Retail: one customer per 50 square feet; one person per 100 square feet for large retailers over 30,000 square feet; no limit for outdoor retail
  • Recreational, entertainment, and cultural establishments: one person per 50 square feet
  • Event venues: up to 50% capacity, capped at 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors

Social gatherings are limited to 15 people inside and up to 50 people outside, while catered events are expanded to 75% of capacity up to100 people indoors and 200 outdoors with confirmation of pre-event COVID testing when there are more than 15 attendees; otherwise they are to follow restaurant rules. Indoor weddings with licensed catering may have up to 50 people, with same requirements for testing. Limits for event and performance venues are expanded to 40% of capacity, still capped at 125 people both indoors and outdoors. Guidance is also available for manufacturingconstruction, and personal services. Indoor social gatherings are limited to two households, and three households for outdoor gatherings. More information on the revised Protecting Your Household guidance is available here.

Rhode Island requires face coverings in all indoor and outdoor public settings, even where six feet of distance from others can be maintained. Exemptions exist for children under the age of two, persons whose health would be damaged by wearing a mask, and for those working along or at a job site where six feet of distance can be maintained, among other exceptions. The COVID-19 control plan, which each open business must submit, requires all businesses to establish procedures to screen all entrants for COVID-19 symptoms and other risk factors, although screenings may occur through the posting of signage requesting self-screening by customers and other entrants.

Participation in youth and amateur sports is permitted for moderate and lower risk sports, including competitions, games, and scrimmages, as well as practices. Practice for higher risk sports is permitted, but competitions, games, and scrimmages are only allowed for higher risk sports that take place outdoors. Additionally, teams may now play out-of-state teams from states with lower rates of community spread (where travel is not restricted). Spectators may attend based on capacity guidance for wherever the event is held, but are limited to two parents or guardians of a youth athlete plus any underage siblings. For colleges and universities, attendance should be limited to students and campus personnel. More information is available here. Note that professional and collegiate sports and events have separate guidelines.

Violators of any COVID-19-related orders or restrictions will be subject to a civil penalty of $100 for a first violation, up to $250 for a second violation, and up to $500 for a third violation.

Please refer to our alert for updated quarantine and travel guidance. Rhode Island’s state of emergency is currently in effect through April 14, 2021.


Vermont continues to operate in an updated version of its Stay Safe/Stay Working plan, which permits limited resumption of business operations not deemed critical under the initial order. A list of essential businesses is available here. Capacity is restricted as follows:

  • Offices: remote work required wherever possible; only open if essential (or financial, legal, or professional); single worker/small office up to 50% or one person per 100 square feet, capped at 75 people indoors
  • Restaurants: up to 50% or one person per 100 square feet, whichever is fewer, capped at 75 people indoors and 150 people outdoors; may seat multiple households at one table, but no more than six total people. Bars permitted to open March 24 following restaurant guidance
  • Religious facilities: subject to physical distancing either by limiting capacity to 50% or one person per 100 square feet
  • Retail: up to 50%, one person per 200 square feet, or 10 total customers and staff, whichever is greater
  • Gyms and close-contact services: up to 25% occupancy or one customer per 200 square feet, capped at 75 people indoors and 150 people outdoors (hair salons up to 10 total customers and staff)
  • Indoor arts and culture venues: up to 50% or one person per 100 square feet, capped at 75 people indoors and 150 people outdoors

Vaccinated individuals or households may gather with other vaccinated individuals or households. For individuals and households who are not fully vaccinated, all social gatherings in private spaces are limited to two unvaccinated households or individuals at one time, plus any fully vaccinated households. Unvaccinated households may gather with more than one other unvaccinated household or individual, but no more than two unvaccinated households or individuals at any one time. Businesses and organizations remain unable to accommodate public multi-household social gatherings whether an individual is vaccinated or not, although they may continue to host religious or wedding ceremonies, funerals, or other essential gatherings. For allowable ceremonies or events, an organization may accommodate up to 50% of approved occupancy size or one person per 100 square feet of customer-facing space if no established occupancy, up to 75 persons indoor and 150 outdoors.

Guidance is also available for event and entertainment venuesoutdoor recreation and fitnesslodging, and manufacturing, construction, and distribution operations. Vermont requires face coverings in public where six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained. Exceptions exist for children under the age of two, for persons engaging in strenuous exercise or activity, or persons with a medical or developmental issue. All open businesses must comply with the state’s health and safety requirements, including observing social distancing on the job to the extent possible, wearing face coverings, and screening workers at the beginning of each shift for COVID-19 symptoms; temperature checks are also recommended. 

Organized youth leagues and school-based sports programs may hold team-based practices and scrimmages. Low contact sports may hold games, competitions, and meets. Moderate contact sports may hold scrimmages and games. High contact sports played indoors will be able to resume practices, meets, and games on April 23; high contact sports played outdoors will be able to resume games on that same day. The number of participants is subject to capacity limits for event size – currently 150 for outdoors and 75 indoors. Notably, athletes participating in running events are exempt from wearing a mask – both practice sessions and meets/competitions – as long as physical distancing is maintained between individuals. Only key personnel (coaches, players, and staff) are allowed to attend these activities; spectators are prohibited. Additional guidance for school sports programs is available here.

Enforcement actions against violators of any COVID-19-related order may result in a civil fine of up to $1,000 each day of the violation, with criminal enforcement available in extraordinary circumstances.

Please refer to our alert for updated quarantine and travel guidance. Vermont’s state of emergency is currently in effect through April 15, 2021.


©2021 Pierce Atwood LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 99



About this Author

Kathleen Hamann White Collar Attorney Pierce Atwood Washington, DC

Kathleen Hamann is an internationally recognized authority in the field of white collar enforcement and compliance matters. Drawing on her nearly 20 years of service to the federal government, in roles at the US Department of Justice and Department of State, Kathleen helps clients navigate the complexities of U.S. and transnational criminal liability and multijurisdictional government investigations.

Since returning to private practice, Kathleen has represented clients in a number of transnational matters, conducting global risk assessments, designing compliance programs, and...

Suzanne King, Employment Lawyer, Pierce Atwood

An experienced management-side employment lawyer, Suzanne King counsels employers on a wide range of employment practices, including: hiring, managing employee performance and discipline, terminations, reductions in force, complaints about sexual and other harassment, reasonable accommodations under the ADA, leave under the FMLA and various state laws, wage and hour practices, including employee classification issues and pay equity, and data privacy and security.  Suzanne also has extensive experience drafting a variety of employment agreements (including executive employment, non-...

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Sarah Remes Employment Lawyer Pierce Atwood Law Firm

Sarah Remes represents clients in complex commercial litigation, including class actions, employment-related disputes, and internal investigations.

Prior to joining Pierce Atwood, Sarah was an associate at a litigation boutique in Boston. During law school, Sarah was a judicial intern for Massachusetts Appeals Court Justice Judd. J. Carhart. She was also the articles editor for the Journal of Business & Intellectual Property Law and a member of the Pro Bono Honor Society. Prior to law school, Sarah worked in risk management and internal audit at a Boston-area bank.