COVID-19 Restrictions to be Lifted on May 29 & State of Emergency to End June 15

Today, the Commonwealth announced that Massachusetts is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June. All remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29 and Governor Charlie Baker will end the State of Emergency on June 15.

The Commonwealth’s current face covering order will also be rescinded on May 29. The Department of Public Health will issue a new face covering advisory consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance. Face coverings will still be mandatory for all individuals on public and private transportation systems (including rideshares, livery, taxi, ferries, MBTA, Commuter Rail and transportation stations), in healthcare facilities and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations, such as congregate care settings.

Also announced were updates that will be effective May 18 to revise face covering requirements for youth and amateur sports and other guidance relating to childcare programs and K-12 schools. Updated guidance for summer camps will also be released, effective May 29.

The Commonwealth leads the nation in vaccinating residents, with 75% of adults receiving at least one dose. To date, over 4 million residents have received a first dose, with 3.2 million fully vaccinated. New cases have dropped by 89% since January 8. COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 88% since January 1 and the positive test rate is down by 88% from peaking at 8.7% on January 1 to 1% today.

Effective May 29

Effective May 29, all industries will be permitted to open. With the exception of remaining face-covering requirements for public and private transportation systems and facilities housing vulnerable populations, all industry restrictions will be lifted, and capacity will increase to 100% for all industries. The gathering limit will be rescinded.

All industries will be encouraged to follow CDC guidance for cleaning and hygiene protocols.

Face Covering Guidance

In line with updated CDC face covering guidance, the Commonwealth will rescind the current face covering order and issue a new face covering advisory effective May 29.

Non-vaccinated individuals are advised to continue wearing face masks and to continue distancing in most settings. The advisory will also recommend fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a face covering or social distance indoors or outdoors except for in certain situations.

Face coverings will still be required for all individuals on public and private transportation (including rideshares, livery, taxi, ferries, MBTA, Commuter Rail and transportation stations), healthcare facilities and providers, congregate care settings and health and rehabilitative day services.

Face coverings will also remain required indoors for staff and students of K-12 schools and early education providers.

Youth and Amateur Sports Face Covering Guidance

Effective May 18, the youth and amateur sports guidance will be updated to no longer require face coverings for youth athletes 18 and under while playing outdoor sports. Effective May 29, all youth and amateur sports restrictions will be lifted.

K-12, Early Education and Summer Camp Guidance

Effective May 18, guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Early Education and Care will be updated to no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess and to allow for the sharing of objects in classrooms, in both K-12 and childcare settings. This guidance will remain in effect beyond May 29.

The Commonwealth will release updated guidance for summer camps, effective May 29, which will include no longer requiring masks for outdoor activities.

State of Emergency Order

Governor Baker will end the State of Emergency​ on June 15, and the Commonwealth will work during this period in order to manage an orderly transition from emergency measures adopted by executive order and special legislation during the period of the State of Emergency.

Commonwealth Announces Plans for Continued Reopening

Today, the Commonwealth announced that Massachusetts will reopen some outdoor Phase IV, Step 2 industries effective May 10th and put plans in place for further reopening on May 29th and August 1st.

Phase IV, Step 2 Industries and Gathering Changes

On March 22, Massachusetts loosened capacity restrictions and advanced to Step 1 of Phase IV of the reopening plan. Since then, case rates have dropped by 20 percent. The positivity rate has dropped to the lowest levels recorded since last summer. 

Effective Monday, May 10th

Large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks currently open as part of Phase 4, Step 1 at 12 percent will be permitted to increase capacity to 25 percent.

The Commonwealth will reopen some outdoor Phase IV, Step 2 industries including amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks that will be permitted to operate at a 50 percent capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.

Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or DPH.

Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high risk sports.

Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.

Effective May 29th

Subject to public health and vaccination data, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings.

Subject to public health and vaccination data, additional Phase 4, Step 2 industries will be permitted to open including:

  • Street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals, at 50 percent of their previous capacity and after submitting safety plans to the local board of health.
  • 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.

Subject to public health and vaccination data, the restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to ten.

Effective August 1st

Subject to public health and vaccination data, remaining industries will be permitted to open including:

  • Dance clubs, and nightclubs
  • Saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs and other facilities
  • Indoor water parks
  • Ball pits

All industry restrictions will be lifted at that time, and capacity will increase to 100 percent for all industries, with businesses encouraged to continue following best practices. The gathering limit will be rescinded.

Depending on vaccine distribution and public health data, the August 1st date may be re-evaluated at a later date.

The Department of Public Health will also continue to issue guidance as needed, including guidance to still require masks indoors.

Face Coverings Order

Effective April 30th, the Face Coverings Order will be relaxed for some outdoor settings.

Face coverings will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.

Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places. 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 for when eating or drinking.

At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required. The $300 fine as an enforcement mechanism will be eliminated.

For more information, visit mass.gov/reopening

Expanded Vaccine Eligibility and Updated CDC Guidance

Starting today, residents 55+ and residents with one certain medical condition become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition, Massachusetts is adopting the CDC’s updated list of medical conditions. This week, the CDC added more medical conditions that are linked to an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Massachusetts will adopt this guidance and make individuals eligible starting today if they have one of these medical conditions. As a result of adopting the CDC’s list, more residents will be eligible.

55+ and Residents with One Certain Medical Condition

Starting today, residents 55+ and residents with one certain medical condition will be eligible to receive vaccine at any of the Commonwealth’s over 300 vaccination locations, including 269 pharmacy locations. With this group, more than 1 million additional residents will be eligible for vaccine in the Commonwealth.

The full timeline is available at mass.gov/COVIDVaccinePhases

The Commonwealth was informed early this week of a one-time increased shipment of 100,000 J&J vaccines that will arrive in the state early next week. Depending on supply from the federal government, it could take weeks for people to be notified that an appointment is available at a mass vaccination site.

Individuals can learn more about the Commonwealth’s vaccination sites and pre-registration by visiting vaxfinder.mass.gov.

CDC Guidance

In accordance with CDC guidelines, the Commonwealth has adopted recent additions to the list of conditions that cause individuals to be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Individuals with one of the following conditions are eligible on Monday, April 5th:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies or hypertension)
  • HIV infection
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Smoking, current or former
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
  • Substance use disorders

For individuals that have already pre-registered but would like to update their information to reflect the new medical conditions recognized by the CDC and Massachusetts as of April 5th, the Commonwealth is building a feature for individuals to edit their submission that will be made available soon.

Massachusetts Transitions to Phase IV of Reopening Plan

This week, Massachusetts advanced to Step 1 of Phase IV of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan. The Commonwealth continues to take steps to reopen Massachusetts’ economy with public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction. This includes drops in average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Massachusetts also continues to be a national leader in vaccination rates. The Commonwealth also replaced the Massachusetts Travel Order originally issued in July 2020 with a Travel Advisory, effective March 22.

Phase IV, Step 1 and Gathering Changes

On March 1, Massachusetts loosened capacity restrictions for several industries and advanced to Step 2 of Phase III of the reopening plan. Since then, hospitalizations dropped by 20 percent and deaths dropped by 24 percent. The seven day average of new cases in long-term care facilities dropped by 53 percent. The positive test rate remains below 2 percent and has been for several weeks now. The seven day average of new cases is also down over this time by 7 percent.

Effective Monday, all communities in Massachusetts moved into Step 1 of Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan. This opens a range of previously closed business sectors under tight capacity restrictions that are expected to be adjusted over time if favorable trends in the public health data continue. Effective on the advancement to Step 1 of Phase IV, the following large capacity sports and entertainment venues will be permitted to operate at a strict 12 percent capacity limit after submitting a plan to the Department of Public Health (DPH):

  • Indoor and outdoor stadiums
  • Arenas
  • Ballparks

Also effective Monday, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings increased to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards remain at a maximum of 25 people, with indoor house gatherings remaining at 10 people.

Additionally, dance floors will be permitted at weddings and other events only, and overnight summer camps will be allowed to operate this coming summer. Exhibition and convention halls may also begin to operate, following gatherings limits and event protocols. Other Phase IV sectors must continue to remain closed.

Travel Order

Effective Monday, the Massachusetts Travel Order was replaced with a Travel Advisory.

The new travel advisory urges all persons entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, to quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival if they have been out of the state for 24 hours or more.

The advisory does not apply to anyone in the following categories:

  • Anyone who is returning to Massachusetts after an absence of fewer than 24 hours.
  • Travelers who have a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72 hours prior to their arrival in Massachusetts.
  • Workers who enter Massachusetts to perform critical infrastructure functions (as specified by the Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) while they are commuting to or from or while at work.
  • Travelers who are fully vaccinated (i.e. who have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines OR who have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 14 days or more ago and who do not have symptoms).

Travelers are additionally encouraged to consult and follow the CDC’s guidelines and requirements for travel. 

Commonwealth Announces Vaccine Timeline for All Residents

Today, the Commonwealth announced the timeline for all remaining residents to be eligible for a vaccine and provided an update on doses that are being received and distributed.

Vaccine Eligibility Timeline

Today, the Commonwealth announced the dates that all remaining residents and certain worker groups will be eligible for a vaccine. The detailed timeline adheres to the original timeline for the three phases announced in December.

All residents can preregister to book an appointment at a mass vaccination site at mass.gov/COVIDVaccine. Appointments will be offered based on eligibility and available appointments nearby. It is expected that more sites will come online as part of the preregistration process in April.

Timeline for remaining groups

  • March 22nd: Residents 60+ and certain workers
  • April 5th: Residents 55+ and residents with one certain medical condition
  • April 19th: General public ages 16 years of age and older

The full timeline is available at mass.gov/COVIDVaccinePhases.

The Commonwealth has received assurances from the federal government that an increased vaccine supply will be available to states soon. Depending on supply, it could take weeks for people to be notified that an appointment is available at a mass vaccination site.

Dose Update

This week, the state is receiving a modest increase in supply of first doses, approximately 170,000. This includes an unexpected 8,000 doses of J&J vaccine.

In total, the Commonwealth will receive 316,000 first and second doses as part of the state allocation. These figures do not include doses provided through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program or to Federally Qualified Health Centers.

This week, first doses and second dose state allocations (total doses), were distributed among providers as follows:

  • Mass vaccination locations: 101,890
  • Health systems and health care providers (excluding CHCs): 99,230
  • Community Health Centers: 27,450
  • Regional Collaboratives and Local Boards of Health: 59,580
    • Regional Collaboratives: 40,370
    • Local Boards of Health: 19,210
  • Retail pharmacies (non-CVS)
    • State allocation: 8,490
  • Mobile Clinics supporting long-term care facilities, congregate care, affordable/low-income senior housing and homebound individuals: 19,180

Weekly allocations are subject to change based on federal availability, demand from providers, and obligations to meet second doses. Providers have 10 days to use their doses and must meet specific performance thresholds.

Federal Doses

In addition to the state allocation, the federal government distributes vaccines to CVS Health sites as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership as well as to certain Massachusetts federally qualified community health centers. These quantities fluctuate on a weekly basis and are not counted as part of the state’s weekly allocation.

This week, 106,440 first and second doses have been allocated to the retail pharmacy program and 9,500 doses have been allocated to the federally qualified health centers.

Individuals looking to book appointments across any of these providers should visit mass.gov/COVIDvaccine to learn more.