Boston To Drop Mask Mandate For Most Public Indoor Spaces This Week

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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The Boston Public Health Commission will no longer require masks in most indoor places starting March 5 - though they will still be required in health care settings and on public transportation.

The unanimous vote to rescind the mandate does not apply to Boston Public Schools. Face masks are still recommended in buildings where vulnerable populations are served, such as the Boston Public Library branches and BCYF community centers.

Businesses and organizations are still able to require masks if they choose to do so.

"Masking in general offers a very important first line of defense when there's increased risk of COVID-19 and I think that it's important that we are able to implement orders, guidance and recommendations as quickly as needed if we do see trends that show us that a surge is on the way," Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission said.

The announcement came at a commission meeting Tuesday, the day after students and staff at Massachusetts public schools are officially not required to wear face coverings indoors. The decision was based on improving COVID-19 metrics seen in the city in recent weeks.

"I’m grateful that our city is ready to take this step in our recovery thanks to the hard work and commitment of residents keeping our communities safe over many, many months," said Mayor Michelle Wu said.

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.

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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