Since April 3, 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that everyone wears face masks while out in public to limit the transmission of COVID-19. However, just over a year later, these guidelines are being relaxed.
The CDC announced on April 27 that fully vaccinated people can begin to attend small outdoor gatherings and activities without wearing a mask. This includes walking, running, hiking, bike-riding and outdoor dining. However, they do recommend that these gatherings remain limited to a few household members or fully vaccinated friends and family.
“If you are fully vaccinated and want to attend a small outdoor gathering with people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, or dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households, the science shows if you are vaccinated, you can do so safely unmasked,” CDC Director Doctor Rochelle Walensky said.
However, this does not mean masks are going away altogether. The CDC still recommends wearing a mask for all indoor activities, including barber shops and hair salons, shopping centers, museums, public transportation, indoor gatherings, movie theaters, worship services and indoor dining. Although these activities are considered safe for vaccinated people while wearing a mask, they are still considered very unsafe for those who have not been vaccinated, even with a mask on.
“The bottom line is clear: If you’re vaccinated, you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors,” President Biden said. “So for those who haven’t gotten their vaccinations yet, especially if you’re younger or thinking you don’t need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated now.”
Governor Charlie Baker has also limited the state’s COVID-19 restrictions in accordance with these new guidelines. Massachusetts has had one of the strictest mask mandates in the nation, but as more than half of residents have been at least partially vaccinated, Baker feels that it is safe to continue to limit some of the state’s restrictions.
Starting on May 10, large venues, stadiums and arenas are permitted to increase their capacity from 12 percent to 25 percent. Additionally, amusement parks and outdoor water parks are able to open at 50 percent capacity. Most amateur sporting events, including tournaments and races, will also be allowed with limited restrictions.
On May 29, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. Festivals, parades and festivals can also be held, but at 50 percent capacity. Bars, breweries, wineries and distilleries will reopen with a 90-minute limit, seated service only and no dance floors. Finally, the table size at all restaurants will increase to a maximum of 10 people.
The most ambitious step in Baker’s reopening plan is set for Aug. 1. All industry restrictions will be lifted, allowing for 100 percent capacity. Additionally, facilities such as dance clubs, night clubs, indoor water parks, saunas and hot tubs, which have been deemed unsafe throughout the pandemic, will be permitted to reopen. However, because Aug. is still months away, this plan may still be adjusted depending on data and vaccine distribution.
“The light at the end of the tunnel—thanks to the hard work of so many—is getting closer, and we can start to look ahead with real optimism for the path forward,” Baker said.