Boston will join Massachusetts in lifting business restrictions on May 29, Mayor Kim Janey said Tuesday.
While Boston had often lagged behind the commonwealth in reopening, "COVID trends in Boston continue to move in the right direction," including the lowest number of active COVID cases since the statistic began to be tracked, Janey said at a news conference.
The mayor had hinted last week she could accelerate the process amid encouraging COVID-19 trends, and her remarks came hours after Baker updated the state's reopening plan, lifting business restrictions and some mask rules for many on May 29, moves that come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or out in most situations.
More than half of the city -- 58% -- is at least partially vaccinated, according to Janey, who characterized her announcement as "good news," though she cautioned that Boston's fight against COVID is not over.
Boston Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez spoke as well, listing the city's improving COVID metrics including that the test positivity rate is down to 2.1%, with no neighborhood above 3%; an average of 63 cases reported a day as of last week and under 65 people hospitalized.
Of the last statistic, he said, "we have not seen these low numbers in over a year. It is clear that vaccines are working," though he added, echoing Janey, that more needs to be done in the city's COVID fight, especially in communities of color.
Janey announced that she is doubling, to $3 million, Boston's investment in the Vaccine Equity Grant Initiative, which offers funding to nonprofits working to increase vaccination rates in communities that have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.
Boston reopening has often moved slower than the rest of the state given its higher population density. Asked why there wasn't a similar lag this time, Janey cited the data.
"Here in Boston, we have more than a month of the data showing that cases are low and continue to be low over time," Janey said. "We are being informed by the data and the data suggests that we can."
Last week, Janey announced Boston will reopen its public libraries to in-person visitors starting next month and increase its number of youth programs as COVID-19 cases continue to drop.
The mayor said she hoped to make a decision about accelerating the timeline in the "coming days and perhaps next week."
Janey last week announced the library system will re-open in June for limited in-person services, prioritizing programs to help residents recover economically and catch up in school. This is expected to include "robust summer programming for both adults and youth," according to the city.
The Boston Centers for Youth & Families will being offering more in-person activities in line with Phase 4, Step 1 of the state's reopening plan, Janey said. According to the city, this will allow for more youth programs, such as arts and crafts and game nights.
Under the plan, BCYF will be able to provide summer day programs at several centers.
Janey also said City Hall in June will begin offering in-person services by appointment four days a week.
The data "indicates we are in a much stronger position to loosen some of the restrictions in terms of our timeline," Janey said.
Boston has been following Massachusetts' lead in reopening from COVID regulations, but with a three-week delay on many of the changes.
The city aligned with the state on sports stadium capacity on Monday to 25%.
Last Friday, Boston dropped the requirement that people wear masks when outside and at a safe distance from others. And the city has increased its capacity restrictions on public gatherings to 100 people indoors and 150 outdoors.
Other measures, like the return of nearly regular bar service, street festivals and the ultimate lifting of COVID regulations for all businesses will be pushed back by about three weeks from the state's plan, Janey said. For example, where Massachusetts plans to lift all business regulations Aug. 1, Boston plans to do so Aug. 22.
Statewide, on May 29, gathering limits will go up to 200 people indoors and 250 outdoors while bars, beer gardens and wineries can reopen without having to serve food.
By Aug. 1, all other businesses will be allowed to reopen without capacity limitations. (Read the full guidelines for Massachusetts here.)
The city is expected to resume road races, tournaments and other outdoor sports events, and allow for singing to return indoors on June 1.
June 19 is when Boston will follow suit on the state's May 29 changes: seated service at bars, beer gardens, wineries and distilleries; street festivals and parades at 50% capacity; restaurants will be able to serve alcohol without also serving foods, and they can serve as many as 10 people per table.
Finally, all business restrictions will be lifted in Boston on Aug. 22, if the public health situation allows for it.