PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island will no longer require residents fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to wear masks and socially distance in most public settings starting Tuesday, Gov. Daniel McKee announced Friday.
The Democratic governor's announcement came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was easing mask-wearing guidance for the fully vaccinated by allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
Masks are still required in some crowded indoor situations, but McKee said easing mask rules will help the economy recover and schools reopen.
“We're resetting Rhode Island and preparing for all the good things to come," he said at an outdoor news conference.
McKee also announced that on May 21, Rhode Island would remove most of its remaining coronavirus limitations on businesses and social gatherings, a week earlier than originally scheduled.
That will allow retailers gyms, offices and other businesses to operate with no capacity limitations if they so choose, he said.
The leader of Rhode Island's Roman Catholics has restored the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, which was suspended in March 2020 at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic as in-person services at all houses of worship were suspended.
“It’s time to come home. It’s time to return to Sunday Mass," Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin said in a letter released Friday.
The obligation takes effect June 6.
Because the pandemic is still lingering, exceptions will be made for those still at risk from the coronavirus, including “those who are elderly and frail, those who have underlying health conditions, and those who have been advised by their health care providers to avoid public gatherings," Tobin wrote.
He reminded those who are unable to attend Mass that the church still recommends spending time in prayer instead.
Churches and other houses of worship were allowed to resume in-person services at reduced capacity in May 2020. Capacity is currently restricted to 80%.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT DATA
The Rhode Island Department of Health on Friday confirmed 139 new cases of the coronavirus and two more virus-related fatalities.
There have now been almost 150,400 known cases of the disease and 2,700 fatalities.
More than 488,000 people in the state have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has fallen over the past two weeks, from 267 on April 28 to about 145 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins.
Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.