BOSTON — A city order that required people to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces in Boston, including restaurants, shops, museums and entertainment venues, was lifted Saturday.
Boston follows New York, Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities that are relaxing pandemic restrictions as officials push for more normalcy after two grueling years of the pandemic.
City public health Commissioner Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, in conjunction with the city health board, made the decision last week citing a steep decline in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations as well as high vaccination rates.
“All of our key metrics are moving in the right direction,” Ojikutu said at the meeting.
In Boston’s Seaport district, most cafes and shops had taken down signs requiring mask mandates by late morning. Standing in line outside a bakery, Matthew Mayer, 23, said he felt relief and that the change was overdue.
“It feels great,” he said. “It feels like I am freed.”
But a few feet ahead in the line, several students were still wearing their masks and said they would continue to do so indoors.
“I am a medical student so for me it’s generally keeping myself safe from any pathogen. It doesn’t have to be COVID,” said Drea Gonzalez, 26, a public health student at the University of Pennsylvania.
A few blocks down at a CVS Pharmacy, employees were wearing masks as required, as were most customers. But those who didn’t have masks on said they felt the policy change made sense.
“Saturday couldn’t have come quick enough really,” said Bob White, a 76-year-old lobbyist who lives in Dorchester. “We’ve had a mask on for a couple of years. I think everything being in order, it’s good for the public to be behind us. When we got here yesterday, we had masks on going to dinner last night and when we got up this morning, we were going to burn our masks. But we didn’t.”
The masking requirement also has been lifted at many city buildings, including for city workers, except those where vulnerable populations are served. The city still recommends masking for people at high risk of becoming sick.
“While masks are no longer mandated in certain indoor settings, the Boston Public Health Commission recommends masking in these settings if you are at high risk for severe illness or if you will be around individuals who are,” the board said.
Also, individual businesses and other venues can continue to require masks for their customers.
The lifting of the mask mandate comes about two weeks after the city ended its proof-of-vaccination requirement for restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues and some other businesses.
Masks are still required on public transportation, in health care and congregate living facilities, and in the city’s public schools. The health board has scheduled a meeting March 9 to discuss school masking policy.
The latest indoor masking policy took effect last August.
Story by Michael Casey.