Starting Wednesday, masks will no longer be required for most people entering Massachusetts courthouses.
According to the order from the Supreme Judicial Court, masks are encouraged, especially for those with weakened immune systems, underlying medical conditions and the unvaccinated. Masks are still mandatory for individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 within the previous 10 days and people who have been in close contact with others testing positive.
“It’s about time that the court system can get back to normal and not be treated like a medical facility,” said attorney Joseph Pacella, president of the Hampden County Bar Association.
Pacella said dealing with mask wearing in courtrooms makes his job more difficult “when we can't necessarily rely on being able to see people's faces to judge their credibility, their reactions, their various expressions, so it's been incredibly frustrating, and this is great news."
Pacella said he hopes there won't be a return to masks in courthouses, even if there is a future rise in COVID cases.
The order from the SJC also spelled out who is not supposed to enter courthouses, including people who tested positive within five days, those demonstrating COVID-19 symptoms or individuals awaiting test results. There are also steps for what people with court business are supposed to do if they fall under one of the categories excluding them from appearing in person.
Judiciary officials previously lifted capacity and physical distancing restrictions in July 2021, but continued to mandate masking inside courthouses regardless of vaccination status.
Since March 7, masks have not been required in any of the federal courthouses in Massachusetts.
This report includes information from State House News Service.
This story is part of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.