Massachusetts will end nearly all emergency COVID-19 restrictions on May 29, ushering in the state's "new normal" of maskless activity in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced at a State House press conference Monday that the state's Public Health Department will shift to a new voluntary advisory putting Massachusetts in line with any future face covering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control focusing mostly on unvaccinated people.
"Rather than relief, what I really feel is gratitude for the way the people of Massachusetts have responded to this," Baker said.
Most businesses will be allowed to open May 29 with no capacity or gathering limitations in place. This includes sectors that had been previously scheduled for reopening in June or later. Private businesses will be authorized to set their own face covering policies for employees and patrons, Baker said.
"We got this far because the people of Massachusetts followed the public health guidance to keep everybody safe, and we must continue to do our part to respect any rules and requirements that individual businesses or employers may choose to put in place," Baker said.
Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey said the capital city will follow the state's lead in reopening.
"Because of this progress, I am making the decision to align with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and lift the COVID restrictions on May 29," Janey said at a Monday afternoon press conference.
Boston and some other cities had maintained a more cautious approach until now, lagging behind state-wide reopening policies by about two weeks.
"Let me be clear, our battle against COVID is not over. Reopening our city will only work if we all continue to do our part to fight the pandemic," Janey said.
Baker said masks will still be required on the MBTA and other transportation systems, at health care facilities and elder care facilities. Masks will still be required indoors for staff and students of early education and K-12 schools. School children will be allowed to play outdoor sports and enjoy recess without a mask starting Tuesday.
The emergency order governing the last 14 months of pandemic restrictions will be ended June 15, the governor added.
Baker said the steps to ending pandemic restrictions are due to the state's large-scale adoption of vaccination against the virus and because COVID-19 transmission rates have fallen drastically as 75% of the adult population has been vaccinated.