Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Kim Janey were scheduled to hold a press conference Friday aimed at encouraging people to dine out as Massachusetts continues to emerge from its long coronavirus shutdown.
Baker, Janey, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy were all scheduled to attend the 2 p.m. event at MIDA, an Italian restaurant in Boston's South End.
They were expected to discuss the state's "Let's Go Out" marketing campaign, an effort to raise public awareness of supporting local restaurants across the state. The $1.9 million campaign was launched to coincide with the lifting of public health restrictions and is scheduled to run through September.
Restaurant sales in Massachusetts have increased sharply since early April and surpassed their comparable 2019 levels even before Massachusetts lifted the majority of its COVID-19 restrictions, the Federal Reserve Bank said this week.
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Massachusetts officially reopened on May 29, lifting all of its COVID-19 restrictions and rescinding its pandemic mask order. In place of the mask mandate, the state issued a new mask advisory in line with CDC guidance. This means if you’re fully vaccinated, you do not have to wear a mask inside or outside in most instances.
All industries are now permitted to open to 100% capacity, indoor and outdoor gathering limits have been rescinded, and all other state-mandated restrictions have been lifted.
Case numbers for COVID-19 are now at a low not seen since the summer of 2020, and the percentage of Massachusetts residents fully vaccinated is steadily climbing.
But as even as officials express optimism toward the current state of the pandemic in the commonwealth, state and local officials are looking to hone in on residents who are still hesitant about getting jabbed with one of the several vaccines available to the public.
As of Thursday, nearly 3.7 million people in Massachusetts were fully vaccinated. And as the state transition away from relying on mass vaccination sites -- officials announced Thursday that all seven sites would close by mid-July -- the state said Massachusetts is now taking a taking a more targeted approach.
"I think of this phase of vaccine distribution as being hyper-focused, hyper local, a ground game," Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said at a virtual forum. "Think of it almost as like a political campaign but instead of political canvassing, we're vaccine canvassing."
And when looking at the percentage of eligible individuals with at least one vaccine dose or fully vaccinated by county, there are disparities across the state. Hampden and Bristol Counties remain below 50% in each of the two categories.
Sudders said she categorizes people who have not received a vaccine in Massachusetts into two groups: those who are "truly hesitant" and those who do not plan to get vaccinated at all, or what she described as "vaccine delayers."
"There are people who don't feel that sort of sense of urgency anymore, and we need to help them feel urgent," she said. "Those delayers are the majority of the unvaccinated and that's where we see some of our biggest opportunity."