03 March 2021

MDHHS Issues New Emergency Order on Face Masks and Social Gatherings

Yesterday, March 2, 2021, the Director of the MDHHS signed a new emergency order on face masks and social gatherings.


The new Emergency Order loosens restrictions on gatherings both indoors and outdoors, for both private residential gatherings and commercial and public gatherings. The order requires face masks be worn at all time during the gatherings, with limited exceptions. The changes will go into effect this Friday, March 5, 2021 and remain in place until April 19, 2021.  Click here to view helpful FAQs on the new Emergency Order going into effect Friday, March 5.

Gatherings at Commercial Venues

The order contains very specific and detailed guidance on capacity requirements for various venues depending on size and function. Most venues, including restaurants, bars, museums, and entertainment venues may now operate at 50% capacity. Gyms and exercise facilities, as well as casinos may operate at 30% capacity. Maximum capacity limits are set for various venues, depending on size.  The indoor dining curfew has been extended from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Social distancing must be maintained while visiting the establishment and patrons must wear a mask when not seated at their table. If a venue is unable to enforce social distance or mask wearing, it may not allow gatherings to occur.

Outdoor Gatherings

The order allows outdoor gatherings at residential venues of 50 or fewer individuals, and non-residential venues for 300 or fewer individuals.

Indoor Gatherings

The order allows for indoor gatherings of 15 and fewer individuals, but no more than 3 households gathered, and prohibits indoor gatherings at non-residential venues, except where no more than 25 people are gathered.

Gatherings for organized sports

Gatherings for organized sports are allowed where participants can remain masked or all participants are tested in accordance with MDHHS guidelines. Gatherings for sports practice is allowed where participants can maintain social distancing. Spectators and other non-participants are allowed, with certain restrictions.

Use of Face Masks Required

The order explains that the loosened restrictions are permitted so long as face masks are worn at all times, with certain limited exceptions. The order defines a face mask as “a tightly woven cloth or other multi-layer absorbent material that closely covers an individual’s mouth and nose” and explains that it does not include loose coverings like a scarf, balaclava or neck gaiter. Even when masks are not otherwise required by the order, the order strongly encourages the use of masks at all possible times.

***Information and guidance in client updates was up to date at time of publication. During the pandemic, information and guidance has been changing rapidly. If you have any questions about the information contained in a client update, please contact the author or your Miller Johnson attorney.***