Baker signs order lifting state of emergency on June 15
Gov. Charlie Baker signed an order Friday officially lifting Massachusetts’ pandemic state of emergency on June 15.
The order has been in place for more than a year.
Baker signed the measure at a Statehouse press conference as the state prepares to lift nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday.
The lifting of restrictions is one more indication that the state’s battle against the coronavirus has turned a sharp corner.
“I would pretty much say it’s over,” Gov. Charlie Baker said, cautioning that the pandemic has thrown a number of curves in the past year. “I do believe it’s certainly on the run.”
While the state is also lifting the face covering mandate on Saturday, there are still locations where masks will still be required, including public transportation, Baker said. The mandate is being replaced with a mask advisory that echoes recommendations from federal health officials.
Baker also said that businesses may still require customers and visitors to continue wearing masks inside.
“If someone has a business and they want you to wear a mask, you should wear a mask,” Baker said.
Baker said that more than 3.5 million residents have received both vaccine shots. He said he expects the state will reach the goal of 4.1 million residents fully vaccinated by mid-June.
Massachusetts is also launching a new campaign to encourage diners to start eating out in their favorite restaurants.
Restaurants are among those the businesses hardest hit during the pandemic and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Friday that the Baker administration wants to send the message that restaurants are open and if individuals are vaccinated they should go out and dine to help those eateries bounce back.
Massachusetts public schools will be required to offer full-time, in-person learning this fall, with most coronavirus-related restrictions lifted, state education officials said.
Schools will not be allowed to offer remote learning as a standard learning model, according to the guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released Thursday.
Social distancing guidelines will be lifted, although some younger students may still be required to wear masks.
“DESE encourages schools to maintain ventilation upgrades from this past year as feasible, continue hand hygiene practices, and extend policies that encourage students and staff to continue to stay home when sick,” the agency said.
Virtual learning will remain available to some students in limited cases, such as for children with documented medical conditions.
It’s too soon to drop all COVID-19 precautions, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said Friday.
“The Baker administration must recognize that the pandemic is not over and that there are many variables to keep an eye on throughout the summer and into the fall,” Najimy said in a written statement. “More safeguards must be built into the Baker administration’s school guidance and vaccination practices to ensure that in-person learning in the fall is as safe as it can be.”
Najimy said those safeguards include: improving vaccination rates in hard-hit communities; keeping young children and their families safe through masking and distancing; requiring adequate ventilation; and continuing COVID-19 testing.
Officials have said that transmission rates of the disease in schools are low.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
There were about 250 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by four.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,495 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to more than 660,700.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 240 people reported hospitalized Friday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 70 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 59. There were an estimated 7,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
More than 7.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts as of Friday.
That includes more than 4.1 million first doses and more than 3.3 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
There have been more than 248,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.
Nearly 3.6 million people have been fully immunized.
HIGH RISK COMMUNITIES
The number of Massachusetts cities and towns considered at high risk for coronavirus transmission has dropped to just one, down from a high of 229 in mid-January, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The two cities on last week’s list — New Bedford and Lawrence — are now considered moderate risk. A total of 19 communities are now in the moderate risk category.
Tisbury, a town of about 4,000 residents on Martha’s Vineyard, was added to the high-risk category.
Communities with fewer than 10,000 residents are considered high risk if they have more than 25 cases.
The state has 351 cities and towns.