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State to Lift COVID Business Restrictions on May 29

Posted on May 17, 2021

Massachusetts will remove all pandemic-related business restrictions on the Saturday before Memorial Day, effectively ending a 14-month state of emergency that restricted wide swaths of the commonwealth’s economy as part of an effort to moderate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Charlie Baker announced this morning that improving vaccine and public-health numbers make it possible to lift all industry restrictions on May 29 instead of on August 1 as previously announced. Capacity will increase to 100 percent for all industries and the gathering limit will be rescinded.

The State of Emergency will officially end on June 15.

At the same time, the state is adopting the recommendation of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated people may forgo face coverings when they are in most indoor settings. 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.

Governor Baker said the lifting of restrictions is possible because Massachusetts expects to achieve its objective of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by early June.

“We are now prepared and protected, and we can move forward together,” he said.

The governor stressed that private businesses may continue to set their own vaccination and masking requirements. He urged members of the public to respect the rules set by individual businesses.

“Businesses should do what works for them and we should respect businesses and employers’ decisions,” Baker said.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts welcomed the announcement.

“Today’s announcement underscores our hope that the public-health and economic crises that turned our lives, our jobs and our businesses upside down during the past year may be nearing an end. We are grateful to Governor Baker, the administration, the Massachusetts Legislature and other public servants who have led us through this unprecedented and difficult time,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“We also know that these changes signal complex new challenges for employers who must ensure the health and safety of employees and customers who may or may not be vaccinated or be at various levels of risk for COVID-19.”

Governor Baker declared the state of emergency on March 10, 2020 and two weeks later ordered all non-essential businesses to close their brick-and-mortar operations. The restrictions remained in place as the commonwealth registered 656,838 cases and 17,394 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

The state has conducted a deliberate, four-phase strategy to re-open its economy. Governor Baker moved the state to Phase 4 on March 22 allowing large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks to increase capacity to 25 percent.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito today thanked the business community for its cooperation during the pandemic.

“We are so grateful for your sacrifice and hard work,” he said.