New Hampshire became the first state in the northeast to drop its mask mandate last week. Many individual cities and towns and businesses are still requiring masks, but it's no longer mandatory across the state.
Massachusetts has had its own mask mandate in place since November of 2020, requiring everyone over the age of 5 to wear a mask in public — even when standing more than six feet away from others. The order replaced an earlier advisory from May of 2020 mandating face coverings only at indoor public places, in stores and on public transportation and outside when social distancing couldn't be properly maintained.
But as Massachusetts has now passed the 2 million vaccinated mark and opened vaccination appointments to everyone 16 and older on Monday, more people are starting to ask when the state's mask mandate will go away.
Not yet, at least given what Gov. Charlie Baker said last week.
He said a week ago that he had no immediate plans to change the Massachusetts mask mandate, saying his administration would only do so when more people are vaccinated.
Almost half of the states in the country no longer have mask mandates, but so far New Hampshire is the only one in New England without one.
Baker said last week that he will follow federal guidance on mask-wearing and incorporate additional information about COVID-19 variants.
"A lot of it is going to depend on both guidance we get from the feds and how fast we are able to vaccinate people, and how big a deal these variants are, not just here in Massachusetts and the northeast but around the country generally," he said.
Dr. George Abraham, chief medical officer at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, said last week that it's premature at this point in time to consider lifting the mask mandate. He said masks remain an important deterrent with a lot of people still unvaccinated and variants on the move.
But he did say the rules for outdoors could be adjusted.
”Definitely outdoors is doable," Abraham said. "I think right now may not be be the right time, but as numbers progressively come down and stay down could that be a possibility? Absolutely yes.”
Medical experts have said we should expect to wear masks through 2022 if we really want to win the battle against COVID-19.