BOSTON (AP) — All remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in Massachusetts on Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday, marking a major milestone in the state's struggle against a disease that has claimed the lives of more than 17,000 residents in the past year.
Baker announced the decision at a Statehouse press conference, saying the state is on track to meeting its goal of vaccinating 4.1 million of the state's 7 million residents by the first week of June.
The state’s face covering order will also be rescinded on May 29 for most settings, according to Baker.
Face coverings will still be mandatory on public and private transportation systems - including rideshares, taxis, ferries, MBTA subways and busses, commuter rail and transportation stations - and in health care facilities and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations like congregate care settings.
State health officials are still advising nonvaccinated individuals to continue wearing face masks and to continue distancing in most settings.
Officials will also recommend that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a face covering or social distance indoors or outdoors except for in certain situations after May 29.
Baker also announced that on June 15, he will end the formal state of emergency that has been in place in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.
Baker said the state will continue to do everything it can to increase access to vaccine shots to all residents especially in those communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The commonwealth was tested,” Baker said. “But together we all fought back.”
Baker said 75% of adults in Massachusetts have already received at least one dose, with 3.2 million fully vaccinated.
New cases have dropped by 89% since January 8. COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 88% since Jan. 1, and the positive test rate is down by 88% from peaking at 8.7% on January 1 to 1% today, Baker said.
Beginning May 29, all industries will be allowed to open across the state. Capacity will increase to 100% for all industries and gathering limits will be rescinded.
Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, called the announcement “spectacular news for small businesses.”
“Now the real work begins to repair a battered small business economy and bring residents of the commonwealth back into the workplace,” he said in a written statement. “A real indicator of a return to normalcy will be the many ‘help wanted’ signs being removed from storefront windows."
SCHOOLS AND SUMMER CAMPS
Beginning May 18, state education officials will no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess and will allow for the sharing of objects in classrooms, in both K-12 and child care settings.
Face coverings will remain required indoors for staff and students of K-12 schools and early education providers.
Also Tuesday, the state's COVID-19 guidance for youth and amateur sports 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 COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted.
The administration is also planning to release updated guidance for summer camps effective May 29, which will include no longer requiring masks for outdoor activities.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by fewer than 300 Monday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 19.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,413 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 657,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were fewer than 340 people reported hospitalized Monday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 100 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 55. There were an estimated 14,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
More than 7.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including about 3.9 million first doses and nearly 3 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
There have been about 232,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.
More than 3.2 million people have been fully immunized.