Baker ending nearly all COVID restrictions May 29
Says Mass. residents can ‘get back to living our lives’
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER moved up the state’s return to what many are calling the new normal by two months, setting May 29 as the day nearly all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in Massachusetts and June 15 as the day the nearly 15-month-old state of emergency will end.
Baker on April 27 had set August 1 as the target date for reopening the economy, but on Monday he decided to sharply accelerate the timetable after continued progress in inoculating the state’s population and last week’s announcement by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scrapping most face-mask restrictions for those who have been vaccinated.
“We all know the virus will be with us after any rule or regulation expires,” he said at a State House press conference, at one point comparing COVID-19 to Michael Myers, the killer from the movie Halloween who kept coming back to claim more victims.
“Thankfully, the knowledge of our medical community is far greater than it was before with respect to how to treat COVID, combined with the results of our highly successful vaccination efforts, allow us to get back to living our lives,” Baker said.
The governor said the state will also adopt new CDC guidance on wearing masks, which allows those who have been vaccinated to stop wearing masks and social distancing in most situations indoors and outdoors. Those who have not been vaccinated are advised to continue wearing masks indoors and socially distance in most settings.
All people will be required to continue wearing masks on public and private transportation (all MBTA service as well as rideshares, taxis, and livery service); in hospitals and health care facilities; and at nursing homes, schools, and congregate care facilities such as jails and prisons.
Those not vaccinated will comply with the new regulations under an honor system. Baker said he would not pursue a system requiring proof of vaccination unless the federal government pursues such a course. He earlier said he would not require state employees to be vaccinated.
Baker said he is implementing a handful of changes earlier than May 29. Starting Tuesday, he said, face coverings will no longer be required outside for athletes under the age of 18 participating in youth and amateur sports. He also said masks will no longer be required at schools and childcares during recess and objects can be shared in classrooms. Guidance for summer camps is coming, but Baker said masks would not be required for outdoor activities.
Baker said he was able to move up the timetable for doing away with most COVID restrictions because 3.2 million people in Massachusetts have been fully vaccinated and 4.1 million, roughly 75 percent of adults, are expected to be fully vaccinated by the first week in June.“We’re in a pretty good place,” Baker said, referring to research indicating those who have been vaccinated are highly unlikely to get the disease and to transmit it to others. “We’re safer, smarter, and better equipped in this fight than at any time since it began,” he said.
The governor declared the original state of emergency on March 10, 2020, under the state’s Civil Defense Act. He said his administration will work with the Legislature to pass any laws needed to continue policies enacted under the emergency declaration.