All COVID-19 restrictions in Massachusetts, including the mask mandate, will be lifted Saturday -- just in time for Memorial Day weekend -- as state enters what officials call a "new normal" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means, effective at midnight, all businesses will be able to reopen without restrictions and the face covering order will be replaced by the CDC's new guidance over the holiday weekend and beyond.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision, announced earlier this month, to fully reopen the state about two months early came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance saying 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.
"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 earlier this month. "Today -- more than ever -- we know that's the truth."
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Here's what to know about the lifting of the restrictions.
Lifting of business restrictions
All industries will be permitted to fully open, except for some remaining face-covering requirements, including in transportation hubs. The gathering limit will be rescinded.
All business are encouraged to follow CDC guidance for cleaning and hygiene protocols.
Mask mandate lifted
The state Department of Public Health will issue a new public health advisory effective May 29 consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance.
Non-vaccinated individuals are advised to continue wearing face masks and to continue distancing in most settings. The advisory will also recommend fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a face covering or social distance indoors or outdoors except for in certain situations.
Face coverings will still be required for all individuals on public and private transportation (including rideshares, livery, taxi, ferries, MBTA, Commuter Rail and transportation stations), healthcare facilities and providers, congregate care settings and health and rehabilitative day services.
Face coverings will also remain required indoors for staff and students of K-12 schools and early education providers.
Effective Saturday, face coverings will continue to be required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals at all times in the following locations, subject to the exemptions listed below:
- On Public and Private Transportation, including on the MBTA, commuter rail, buses, ferries, and airplanes, and while in rideshares (Uber and Lyft), taxis, and livery vehicles, as required by the Centers for Disease Control January 29, 2021 Order. Face coverings are also required at all times in transportation hubs, including train stations, bus stops, and airports. The requirement applies to riders and workers.
- Inside K-12 public schools, collaboratives, approved special education schools and as otherwise required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The requirement applies to students, teachers, and staff.
- Inside Childcare Programs licensed or authorized by the Department of Early Education and Care and as otherwise required by EEC or the Department of Public Health. This requirement applies to students, teachers, and staff.
- In Health Care Facilities and Provider Offices, defined as healthcare facilities or providers licensed or operated by the Commonwealth including nursing homes, rest homes, emergency medical services, hospitals, doctor’s office, urgent care settings, community health centers, vaccination sites, behavioral health clinics, and Bureau of Substance and Addiction Services facilities. This requirement applies to patients and staff.
- In Congregate Care Settings, defined as congregate care facilities or programs operated, licensed, certified, regulated, or funded by the Commonwealth including: assisted living facilities, group homes, houses of correction, Department of Correction prisons, jails, residential treatment programs, and facilities operated, licensed, certified, regulated, authorized, or funded by the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Youth Services, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Developmental Services, the Department of Veterans’ Services, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Additionally, the face coverings requirement applies to emergency shelter programs, including individual and family homeless shelters, domestic violence and sexual assault shelters, veterans’ shelters, and shelters funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development. The face coverings requirement also applies in approved private special education schools, which offer residential services and are approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This requirement applies to clients and staff.
- In Health Care and Rehabilitative Day Services and Programs, defined as programs or services operated, licensed, certified, regulated, or funded by the Commonwealth and authorized under the aegis of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services or one of its agencies. These programs and services include: adult day health, day habilitation, Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, psychosocial rehabilitation club houses, brain injury centers and clubhouses, day treatment, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, recovery support centers and center-based day support programs. This requirement applies to staff and consumers.
- Care in the Community: Community and home-based care settings where health care and home care workers including Personal Care Attendants, Home Health Aides, and Home Care Workers providing patient-facing care. The face coverings requirement applies to both the worker and patient when care is being provided.
The following people are exempt from the face coverings requirement:
-- Children 5 years of age and younger.
-- Persons for whom a face mask or covering creates a health risk or is not safe because of any of the following conditions or circumstances:
- the face mask or covering affects the person’s ability to breathe safely;
- the person has a mental health or other medical diagnosis that advises against wearing a face mask or covering;
- the person has a disability that prevents them from wearing a face mask or covering;
- or the person depends on supplemental oxygen to breathe.