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Massachusetts Gov. lifts outdoor mask mandate, announces timeline to relax business restrictions

In a press release, the Baker administration said starting Friday, masks will no longer be required outdoors as long as you can maintain social distancing.
Credit: AP
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker delivers his state of the state address in the House Chamber, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, at the Statehouse, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

MASSACHUSETTS, USA — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday his administration is lifting the state's outdoor mask mandate effective Friday and relaxing other COVID-related business restrictions beginning May 10.

In a press release, the Baker administration said starting Friday, masks will no longer be required outdoors as long as you can maintain social distancing.

Starting on May 10, amusement parks and water parks will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. Then on May 29, gathering limits will go up to 200 people indoors and 250 outdoors. Wineries and bars can also reopen without having to serve food, but customers have to be seated and spaced out six feet apart.

By Aug. 1, all other businesses will be allowed to reopen without capacity limitations.

Baker is expected to address the changes during a press conference at 1:45 p.m.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled new guidance on outdoor mask-wearing for unvaccinated people Tuesday, ahead of a scheduled speech by the president later in the day on the state of the pandemic response. 

"I'm not familiar with what the feds may be up to," Baker said Monday, adding that he has a weekly call Tuesday with the White House Task Force on COVID-19.

"If they are planning and make an announcement, I'm sure we'll learn something about it then," Baker said. "We do plan to; we said last week that we're going to make some additional announcements here in Massachusetts this week."

When asked for more detail, Baker said, "Stay tuned." When asked for a specific day, Baker repeated, "this week."

Despite the updates, Dr. C. Michael Gibson, a professor at Harvard Medical School, urged people to continue to wear masks indoors. Vaccinated people are likely "very safe" to be outside without a mask, according to Gibson.

"A lot of it comes down to the time you’ve been indoors with other people. Sixty feet may not be any safer than six feet because of the ventilation," Gibson said. "I remember a story where they looked at the projection of a cough or sneeze. It's not just three to six feet - it goes out 25 to 28 feet when you look at all the little cloud of particles that go out. So we may have been fooling ourselves a bit, particularly if there’s poor ventilation indoors."

Though neighboring states have announced they are relaxing mask mandates and business restrictions, Baker has yet to do so.

New Hampshire announced earlier this month that it was lifting its mask mandate and rolling back all other pandemic-related measures on May 7. Last week, officials in Connecticut announced that all outdoor restrictions will be lifted on May 1 and all other business restrictions will be phased out starting May 19.

On Thursday, Rhode Island's governor said he will also be easing the state's outdoor mask mandate and other restrictions on May 7.

The last time the rules changes in Massachusetts was a month ago when large venues like Fenway Park were permitted to open at 12% capacity, and most businesses are still restricted to 50% capacity and no more than 500 people.

Editor's Note: The video below aired April 15, 2021.