Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts could fully reopen sooner than his proposed date of Aug. 1 if residents continue to get vaccinated against coronavirus at the current rate.
"We are the first state in the country in which two-thirds of all of our adults have actually gotten a first dose, so we are clearly rocking and rolling on that one," he said during a Thursday press conference.
All business restrictions and industries are slated to reopen on Aug. 1 under a series of measures announced earlier this week aimed at reopening the state's economy. But Baker said he would move faster if residents keep getting vaccinated at this pace.
"We felt we were sure we would be in a good place by Aug. 1," Baker said Thursday, "But if the people of Massachusetts continue to be as aggressive and as enthusiastic about getting vaccinated as they've been, we may have the ability to do that sooner."
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Baker urged people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus Thursday, a day after getting his second dose. He cited "overwhelming evidence," that vaccines work.
"Twenty-four hours after I got it, I ached all over. I had chills. I didn't have a temperature and it was all in all a pretty crummy day. And by the end of the day, I felt better. And two weeks from now I will be part of the fully vaccinated part of the Commonwealth and I urge everybody in Massachusetts to go get vaccinated," he said.
"That is the best, fastest and best thing you can do for yourself, do for your family, do for your community. Go get vaccinated," Baker said.
Also on Thursday, Baker announced $2.1 million in grant funding to be divided among 10 vocational technical high schools through his administration's Career Technical Initiative. He was joined by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and top state education, economic development and labor officials at the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School in Danvers, one of the grant recipients.
The program aims to train 20,000 people in skilled trades over the next four years to "meet the changing needs of our economy, and to help close the skills gap," he said.
"I think, in many respects, this is one of the most important things we're going to need to do as we all get back to so called normal," Baker said. "And that is find ways to make sure that people have the skills that they need to succeed in a twenty-first century economy."
Baker's press conference came the day before Massachusetts relaxes its outdoor mask mandate, the first in a series of reopening measures taking effect now that hospitalizations and COVID cases are declining.
Beginning Friday, face masks will only be required outside in public when it’s not possible to socially distance — or when required for other reasons, including at outdoor events.
Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places, including stores.
Face coverings will also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors and whether held in a public space or private home, except when eating or drinking.
At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required.
The $300 fine that had been put in place as an enforcement mechanism will also be eliminated.
The Baker administration announced additional steps Tuesday to continue reopening the state.
Large venues like indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks — currently operating at 12% capacity — will be allowed to increase to 25% capacity beginning May 10.
Amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity.
Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted with staggered starts, while youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high-risk sports.
Singing will also be allowed indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants and other businesses.
Beginning May 29, street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals will be allowed to open at 50% of their previous capacity and bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90-minute limit and no dance floors.
Restaurants will be allowed to increase the maximum table size to 10.
And beginning Aug. 1, other businesses will be allowed to open including nightclubs, indoor water parks, ball pits. saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers and health clubs.