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COVID-19: Comfort Zones - Overview of Business and Social Restrictions in New England - Updated March 31
Thursday, April 22, 2021

Last updated: April 20, 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.

Please note that all states are now vaccinating residents ages 16 and over. Further, 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 Biden administration’s executive order requiring face coverings to be worn in all federal buildings is also still in effect. 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

May 13

Until rescinded

May 7

May 13

May 15

Early business closure

11:00 pm (restaurants and indoor recreation)




11:00 pm for bar area of restaurants, unless already eating

10:00 pm for restaurants

Remote work requirement






Required where possible

Office capacity

Maintain social distance

Greater of 50% or 50 people

Up to 50%

Maintain social distance

Up to 50%

Maintain social distance

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







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


Effective March 19, all businesses and organizations returned 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

  • 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 11:00 pm is still in place for restaurants and indoor recreation.

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:

  • Indoor gatherings and businesses: up to 50% of occupancy 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: subject to indoor business and outdoor gathering capacity limits

  • Retail: 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)

Bars and tasting rooms are also open, 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 May 13, 2021.


Massachusetts remains in 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 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. 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 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. It is expected that the governor will allow business closures initially implemented via Order 52 to expire on May 7, at which point all businesses will be able to open, subject to universal guidance. Until then, the following capacity restrictions are currently 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 includes additional specific guidance for other industries, including golf, libraries, museums and galleries, and outdoor attractions. Guidance is also available for 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 encourages, but no longer requires, face coverings in public spaces, although private businesses and localities may enact their own masking rules.

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 May 7, 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 75% capacity indoors (max of eight people per table); up to 100% capacity for outdoor dining (max of 10 people per table); bar areas in restaurants open following guidance, including closure at 11:00pm unless food has already been 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: 1 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 may have 75% of capacity up to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors with confirmation of pre-event COVID testing when the number of attendees is higher than the social gathering limit. Effective June 5, catered events will be allowed to have 200 people indoors and 300 outdoors. Also as of that date, dance floors will be permitted for outdoor catered events, with masks worn at all times. Guidance is also available for manufacturingconstruction, and personal services.

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 May 13, 2021.


Vermont recently rolled out its Vermont Forward Plan, which will progress as higher percentages of the population are vaccinated. The Plan transitions away from sector specific guidance toward universal guidance. The transition is occurring in two phases. Effective April 9, the following sectors will be subject only to the state’s universal guidance:

  • Outdoor businesses, including farmers markets

  • Low or no contact professional services

  • Outdoor recreation and fitness

  • Retail operations

  • Lodging, campgrounds, and other accommodations

  • Religious facilities and places of worship

Through April 30, the following businesses will follow Group B guidance, in addition to the universal guidance:

Event venues are generally limited to 50% of occupancy or one person per 100 square feet, up to 75 people indoors and 150 outdoors, not counting staff or vendors. Specialized guidance is in place for overnight and residential campscolleges and universitiesski resortshealth careeducation, and child care.

Vaccinated individuals or households may gather with other vaccinated individuals or households, and may gather with up to two unvaccinated people or households at a time. Those who are not fully vaccinated may gather with fully vaccinated people or with one unvaccinated person or household at a time. Even those not vaccinated may engage in outdoor recreation and fitness activities with anyone, although businesses or organizations supporting or offering outdoor recreation and fitness must follow the universal guidance.

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 May 15, 2021.

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