mask mandate

More New England States Dropping Mask Mandates Following CDC Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people Thursday, but some New England states have yet to update their mandates

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Following federal recommendations to relax mask rules for fully vaccinated people, more New England states are dropping their mask orders.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated -- meaning two weeks after their final shot -- no longer need to wear masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

"The CDC is following a science-based approach and as new data comes out, they’re changing their guidance," Dr. Sabrina Assoumou of the Boston Medical Center said. "But I think travel, and those particular settings are still more likely to have people in crowds and we know crowds are places where you have higher risk of getting COVID.”

But states have different rules. Masks are no longer required outside anywhere in New England, provided people maintain social distance. Some states, however, have yet to update their indoor mask guidance for those who have been vaccinated.

For now, there won't be any change to the Massachusetts mask order, which was relaxed on April 30 for people outdoors. But Gov. Charlie Baker's press secretary said Thursday he would update his restrictions soon.

"The Administration welcomes the new CDC guidance and will be updating Massachusetts’ COVID restrictions in the near future. In the meantime, the current mask order remains in place," a spokesperson for Baker said.

The governor said Friday that he expects to update the state's reopening plan early next week.

Massachusetts increased capacity limits for large venue earlier this week as part of a series of relaxed COVID restrictions that positions the state to fully reopen on Aug. 1. Phases are contingent upon public health and vaccination data.

Connecticut will adopt the CDC's mask rules on May 19, Gov. Ned Lamont said. The state is getting ready to lift most all remaining restrictions, which include size limits and social distancing rules for businesses, such as large event venues, bars and nightclubs.

The Nutmeg State relaxed its outdoor mask order last month and all outdoor restrictions ended in Connecticut at the beginning of May.

Rhode Island announced Friday that it will no longer require residents fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to wear masks and socially distance in most public settings starting Tuesday.

Masks are still required in some crowded indoor situations, but Gov. Daniel McKee said easing mask rules will help the economy recover and schools reopen.

“We’re resetting Rhode Island and preparing for all the good things to come,” he said at an outdoor news conference.

McKee also announced that on May 21, Rhode Island would remove most of its remaining coronavirus limitations on businesses and social gatherings, a week earlier than originally scheduled.

That will allow retailers gyms, offices and other businesses to operate with no capacity limitations if they so choose, he said.

The CDC now says it is safe for fully vaccinated people to remove their masks in most indoor settings.

Gov. Phil Scott wrote on Twitter Thursday that the new guidance is "incredibly encouraging," and that Vermont would "follow suit." He detailed the changes at a Friday morning press conference, saying the state will ease its mask mandate, allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.

He called the change a "monumental step forward," according to WPTZ-TV.

"Those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks -- indoors or outdoors," Scott said. "Nor do they need to be concerned about physical distancing."

Vermont had relaxed its guidance on outdoor mask-wearing last month while moving to the second phase of reopening, which allowed larger gatherings and issued universal guidance to businesses.

Scott is also moving up the state’s reopening plans by two weeks. Effective Friday, there will no longer be a testing requirement for travel, and capacity limits will increase for both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

“It’s time to reward all the hard work you’ve done over the past 14 months to help make Vermont’s pandemic response the best in the country,” Scott said.

Gov. Janet Mills, too, ended the outdoor mask order in Maine last month. She announced Friday that the state's indoor mask order and physical distancing requirement at indoor public settings like restaurants and bars will be lifted, effective May 24.

The Pine Tree State was already planning to lift capacity limits and requirements to physically distance in outdoor settings on that day, along with all capacity limits in public indoor venues will and physical distancing requirements indoors.

"After a review of the new guidance, we are adopting the U.S. CDC’s recommendations, and we continue to strongly urge all Maine people to get their shots," Mills said in a statement.

Masks have not been required in much of New Hampshire since Gov. Chris Sununu let the mandate expire nearly a month ago. The Granite State was the last state in New England to adopt a statewide mask mandate in November and was the first to lift it.

In addition to dropping the mask requirement, the state eliminated other pandemic-related measures on May 7, including retail and restaurant restrictions and the "Safer at Home" edict. The requirements were replaced by “Universal Best Practices," which include guidance for individuals and businesses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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