BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts will lift its remaining COVID restrictions on May 29, Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.
The decision comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear face masks or stay socially distanced in most cases.
"The science shows that vaccinated people are well protected against the virus and unlikely to spread COVID," Baker said, adding that people who are not fully vaccinated are strongly urged to continue wearing masks.
Even after May 29, face coverings will still be mandatory for all people on rideshares, livery, taxi, ferries, MBTA, commuter rail, transportation stations, in health care facilities and in congregate care settings.
Previously, Massachusetts was set to let bars reopen and ease restaurant restrictions on Saturday, May 29. All COVID regulations in Massachusetts were expected to drop by August 1. But that all changed with Baker's announcement Monday.
"We are now prepared and protected, and we can move forward together," Baker said.
Massachusetts will be the last New England state to align with the new CDC mask guidance.
The governor said businesses are able to set their own rules for vaccinations or masks as they see fit.
"As we transition away from the current restrictions, businesses may choose to set their own requirements for vaccinations or masking. We encourage them to do whatever works for them, for their employees, and for their customers," Baker said.
Effective Tuesday at schools, masks will no longer be required for outdoor activities like recess.
The state also updated its guidance for youth sports. Starting Tuesday, masks will no longer be required for athletes under 18 years old during competition.
Baker said the state will drop the current State of Emergency on June 15.
The governor said Massachusetts is on track to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 4.1 million people by the first week of June.
"The temporary limits and restrictions imposed on the private sector and individuals were the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make," Baker said. "The loss and the isolation so many of our friends and families experienced is likely to impact all of us for a very long time."
New coronavirus cases in Massachusetts have dropped by 89% since January 8, COVID hospitalizations are down 88% since January 1 and the positive test rate is down to 1% as of Monday after peaking at 8.7% on January 1.
With the Governor's announcement, the mood lifted on Moody Street in Waltham. "It just feels good to be walking around…without the masks," said Tom Catapano. "I think it's great," said Anna Mae Maillet. "I think that people are feeling safer, which is always a good thing."
"It's fantastic news. It has been a very long haul this past year, 2021, we are looking forward to the back to normal," said Shannon Rossi, manager of In a Pickle Restaurant. "It's going to take a long time to get back to where we were."
Some say they will take it slowly. Asked if he will be ready to take his mask off Memorial Day weekend, Sean Salazar of Waltham said, "probably not."
"Of course I'm concerned that if things are premature and we jump the gun and we have to back to the way things were," said Rachel Lindenthall, also from Waltham.
"I think for everybody, the way they come out of this is going to be sort of on their own terms, and I think we should all understand that," said Baker.
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