Boston Health Officials to Meet Tuesday Over Ending Mask Mandates

Mayor Michelle Wu this weekend said the city appears to be headed in the “right direction” with its COVID-19 measures

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Boston public health officials are weighing whether to lift the city’s mask mandate for schools and businesses Tuesday.

The city’s Public Health Commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the matter. It comes the day after students and staff at Massachusetts public schools are officially not required to wear face coverings indoors.

Mayor Michelle Wu said Tuesday afternoon that the conversation will cover facemasks and "upcoming policies," as other cities and states have been rolling back mask mandates with COVID metrics heading in the right direction.

She said she was informed that the BPHC meeting "will include conversations around masks and upcoming policies with how we continue to transition in this moment of cases going down," along with a big-picture conversation on long-term planning, rather than changing policies to react to individual surges.

"We've seen some recommendation coming from the CDC around masks. We've seen some cities and states around the country starting to take action, now that cases are lower and transmission is lower," Wu said. "This is really an opportunity for the Boston Public Health Commission and our Board of Health to share out some of the -- and to communicate -- the information and thought processes as we make those longer term plans."

The mayor said that public health director Dr. Bisola Ojikutu has the authority to change policies like the city's facemask mandate for certain indoor settings.

Asked if the mandate could be lifted Tuesday, Wu said, "That's right. Yeah."

The statewide school mask mandate in Massachusetts ended Monday, leaving the COVID-19 policy decision up to local districts. Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this month that he would lift the state's mask mandate effective Feb. 28, citing student's mental health, vaccination rates and other accessible tools to deal with the pandemic.

Tuesday’s discussion also comes as the federal Centers for Disease Control eased its coronavirus guidelines on Friday, determining that most Americans live in places where they can safely dispense with wearing masks. The agency is still advising people, including schoolchildren, to wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high.

Wu said last weekend that the city appears to be headed in the “right direction” with its COVID-19 measures. Boston’s positivity rate was at 4%, compared to around 2% statewide.

“It’s such a different place now than it was a week ago or a month ago, so we want to keep those trends going,” Wu said Saturday, according to WBUR.

At the same time, she noted, many families are also returning this weekend from travels over school vacation week.

“We want to be intentional with how we change and lift our policies,” she said, according to WBUR.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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