Massachusetts

Experts, Advocates Suggest Outdoor Mask Mandates Be Lifted

Wearing masks indoors should still be required, medical experts said, but outdoor infections are rare

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A conservative group on Tuesday called on Massachusetts’ governor to lift the state’s outdoor mask-wearing mandate.

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, in a statement directed to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, argued that most of the state’s most vulnerable residents have been inoculated against COVID-19, and anyone who is 16 or older who lives, works or studies in the state is now eligible to receive a vaccine as of Monday.

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“It’s time to start taking steps back to normal,” said Paul Diego Craney, spokesperson for the group, which advocates for fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability in state government.

The organization noted that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, also a Republican, dropped the state’s outdoor mask order last week, but encouraged residents to continue social distancing and wear masks if they cannot.

The group also noted that the policy change in New Hampshire doesn’t prevent private businesses and local cities and towns in that state from imposing their own mask rules.

The mask mandate in New Hampshire ends at midnight Saturday morning, but many places will still require face coverings.

Baker’s office didn’t comment, but the governor, as of last week, said he had no immediate plans to drop the mandate.

The calls come as medical experts in New England acknowledge it soon might be safe enough for states to lift mask requirements when outdoors.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island, tweeted Sunday that wearing masks indoors should still be required, but said outdoor infections are rare and mostly tend to happen when large groups gather in confined spaces for long periods of time, The Boston Globe reports.

“I think it’s pretty safe to be out and about walking around without a mask, especially in large parts of the country where infection numbers are under reasonable control,” he said on CNN.

Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, also agreed Monday that it might be time to lift the mandates, especially in places were people can safely distance.

“Transmissions do not take place between solitary individuals going for a walk, transiently passing each other on the street, a hiking trail, or a jogging track,” he said in a blog post on the New England Journal of Medicine website. “That biker who whizzes by without a mask poses no danger to us, at least from a respiratory virus perspective.”

Sax similarly stressed that indoor mask regulations should persist, at least until more people are vaccinated.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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