Gov. Charlie Baker made it official early Friday afternoon: the great majority of the state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions that have shaped life in Massachusetts since last March will no longer be in effect starting Saturday.
The governor said the progress of vaccinations here — 78% of adults have gotten at least one dose and more than 3.5 million people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus — made it possible to repeal government restrictions and allow businesses to start getting back to normal operations.
"Thanks to the people in Massachusetts who've made enormous sacrifices over the course of the past year to get us to this point, brighter days are very much upon us," Baker said Friday in the State House Library. "We've been battling the virus for too long, but today we have an opportunity to put an exclamation point on all the hard work that so many people have done."
As of Saturday in Massachusetts, all industries will be permitted to open to full capacity, indoor and outdoor gathering limits will be rescinded and, with the exception of face-covering requirements for certain settings, all state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted. The state of emergency that's been in place since March 10, 2020 will be lifted at 12:01 a.m. on June 15 under an order Baker signed Friday.
People who have not been vaccinated will be advised, but not ordered, to continue wearing face masks and to continue distancing in most settings, but the state's new advisory will recommend that vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a face-covering or social distance indoors or outdoors except for in certain situations.
With an improved public health situation, the strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19 now shifts from more than a year of mandating how businesses can and should operate to an emphasis on personal risk assessment and choice. Businesses may opt to keep some restrictions in place to protect their employees and customers, and each individual can make decisions based on their own comfort level and virus conditions in their community.
Since Baker first laid out a roadmap to the end of COVID-19 restrictions on April 27, initially suggesting an end date of Aug. 1, the average number of daily new cases has dropped 82.5% from nearly 1,200 new cases a day to an average of 208 new cases a day. The average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is down 58% from more than 650 patients to an average of 274 now. Deaths are down more than 40% from more than 10 a day to about six a day, a low since the pandemic began. The state's average positive test rate was 1.72% then and now stands at 0.8%.
And since the governor announced his accelerated reopening timeline on May 17, new cases are down 57%, hospitalizations are down 29%, deaths are down 35% and the positive test rate has shed about three-tenths of a percent.