HCN News & Notes

Gov. Baker Announces State Will Lift All COVID-19 Restrictions on May 29

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced that the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June, and, as a result, all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.

All industry restrictions will be lifted, and capacity will increase to 100% for all industries. The gathering limit also will be rescinded. All industries will be encouraged to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for cleaning and hygiene protocols.

The Commonwealth’s face-covering order will also be rescinded on May 29. The Department of Public Health will issue a new face-covering advisory consistent with updated guidance from the CDC. Face coverings will still be mandatory for all individuals on public and private transportation systems (including rideshares, livery, taxi, ferries, MBTA, commuter rail, and transportation stations), in healthcare facilities, and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations, such as congregate-care settings. Face coverings will also remain required indoors for staff and students of K-12 schools and early-education providers.

The administration is able to take these steps to reopen the Commonwealth’s economy because Massachusetts is on track to meet the goal set in December to fully vaccinate more than 4 million individuals by the first week of June. The Commonwealth leads the nation in vaccinating residents, with 75% of adults receiving at least one dose. To date, more than 4 million residents have received a first dose, with 3.2 million fully vaccinated.

On May 18, 2020, the administration published the reopening phases, which called for ending restrictions when vaccines became widely available. New cases have dropped by 89% since Jan. 8. COVID hospitalizations are down 88% since Jan. 1, and the positive test rate is down by 88%, from 8.7% its peak on Jan. 1 to 1% today.

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 socially distance indoors or outdoors except in certain situations.

“The update to the state’s mask guidelines is consistent with the administration’s thoughtful and data-guided approach to reopening, and the positive trend in key COVID-19 metrics which drove this action underscores the safety and efficacy of vaccines,” said Dr. Carole Allen, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Effective May 18, the youth and amateur sports guidance will be updated to no longer require face coverings for youth athletes 18 and under while playing outdoor sports. Effective May 29, all youth and amateur sports restrictions will be lifted.

Effective May 18, guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Early Education and Care will be updated to no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess and to allow for the sharing of objects in classrooms, in both K-12 and childcare settings. 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.

Baker will end the state of emergency​ on June 15, and the administration will work with legislative and municipal partners during this period in order to manage an orderly transition from emergency measures adopted by executive order and special legislation during the period of the state of emergency.

Allen noted that, because of access challenges or hesitancy, many in the Commonwealth have yet to be vaccinated.

“That can be especially dangerous for those who live and work in locations where they have frequent close contact with others,” she said. “Importantly, despite improving public-health data, we cannot relent in our efforts to vaccinate those in underserved communities which have seen and continue to see a disproportionate level of transmission and severe illness.

“Those who have yet to be vaccinated should continue to wear masks outside of the home, especially in instances where physical distancing is not possible,” Allen went on. “We encourage all who are eligible to get a vaccine and those who have questions or concerns about the guideline changes to speak with their physician or healthcare provider.”