All COVID-19 restrictions in Massachusetts, including the state's mask mandate, will lift on May 29, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.
"We said since Day 1 that we'll get through this together, because the people in Massachusetts are strong, kind and willing to sacrifice to help their neighbor," Baker said Monday. "Today -- more than ever -- we know that's the truth."
Baker’s decision to fully reopen the state about two months early came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance Thursday, which says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most situations. All industries in Massachusetts were previously slated to reopen on Aug. 1.
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With the latest update to Massachusetts' reopening plan, all businesses will be able to reopen without restrictions and the face covering order will be replaced by the CDC's new guidance over Memorial Day weekend.
"The message from us is, if you're fully vaccinated, the data and the guidance from the CDC is pretty clear: you're very unlikely to transmit it, you're very unlikely to get COVID," Baker said. "If you're not vaccinated, you should get vaccinated."
Face coverings, first advised by the state in April of last year, will still be mandatory for anyone taking public and private transportation including rideshares, taxis, ferries, the MBTA and the Commuter Rail as well as in transit stations. Masks will also be mandatory inside schools, child care programs, health care facilities, nursing homes and other settings that host vulnerable populations.
Baker also announced Massachusetts state of emergency will end June 15.
He cited the state's nation-leading vaccination process in his decision to hasten the reopening timeline. Massachusetts is on track to meet its goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June.
"Today Massachusetts leads the nation in vaccinations and we're on track to meet the goal that we set for ourselves back in December," Baker said. "People took the fact that the vaccine was a big part of our way out of this seriously and that's a big part of why we're here today talking about this.
"We are now prepared and protected, and we can move forward together," Baker said.
Over 3.2 million people in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated and over 4 million people, 75% of all adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Virtually all residents who get a first dose return for their second, Baker added, which is why he's "confident," about meeting that goal.
Also effective May 29, all industries will be permitted to open at 100% capacity and the gathering limit will be rescinded. All industries will be encouraged to follow CDC guidance for cleaning and hygiene protocols.
"The temporary limits and restrictions imposed on the private sector and on individuals were the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make," Baker said.
Businesses may choose to set their own requirements for vaccinations or masking.
"Businesses are going to make decisions about what they think makes the most sense for their employees and their customers, and we should all be respectful of that," Baker said.
The Department of Public Health will issue a public health advisory urging all unvaccinated residents to wear face coverings in most indoor settings.
"The department will advise all vaccinated residents that it's safe to go back to doing the things we all used to do before this pandemic, consistent with the CDC's new guidance," Baker said.
Baker spoke from the State House alongside Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy.
Polito announced that masks will no longer be required for youth and amateur sports while playing outdoors, effective May 18. Effective May 29, all youth and amateur sports restrictions will be lifted.
Masks will no longer be required for outdoor activities at school such as recess, and students will be allowed to share objects in classrooms, in both K-12 and childcare settings, effective May 18. This guidance will remain in effect beyond May 29.
The administration will release updated guidance for summer camps, effective May 29, which will include no longer requiring masks for outdoor activities.
Polito noted that children ages 12-15 are now eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine.
"We know that there are much brighter days upon us and ahead of us," Polito said. "And it's largely due to the access that people here have to the vaccine and that so many people have chosen to participate in the vaccination program."
Two weeks ago, Massachusetts began to ease up on mask requirements by allowing residents to go maskless in outdoor public settings as long as they could continue to socially distance from others. Face coverings are currently required at all times in indoor public places, including stores. Store owners can still refuse entry to any customer who won’t put on a mask.
Face coverings also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors and whether held in a public space or private home, except when eating or drinking.
On May 18, 2020, the Administration published the reopening phases, which called for ending restrictions when vaccines became widely available. Today, there are over 975 locations for Massachusetts residents to access vaccines without delay.
For the 10th straight day, Massachusetts health officials announced fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, as the state's Department of Public Health confirmed 494 more COVID cases.
Five new deaths were also reported. The new numbers pushed the state's confirmed caseload to 656,838 and the death toll to 17,394 since the start of the pandemic.
The seven-day average of positive tests on Sunday ticked down to 1%.
Many of Massachusetts' COVID metrics, including the average number of coronavirus cases, average coronavirus test positivity and average number of confirmed deaths reported each day, have been falling since the end of March, according to trends posted to the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard.
New cases have dropped by 89% since Jan. 8, according to Baker's office. COVID hospitalizations are down 88% since Jan. 1 and the positive test rate is down by 88% from peaking at 8.7% on Jan. 1 to 1% on Monday.