Massachusetts lifts mask rule; Maine reports 108 new cases
BOSTON (AP) — Coronavirus developments around New England:
It’s back to nearly normal in Massachusetts.
Gov. Charlie Baker lifted almost all COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday including a statewide face covering mandate that has been in place during much of the pandemic.
The mandate is being replaced with a mask advisory that echoes recommendations from federal health officials. Unvaccinated individuals are still encouraged to wear masks in public areas, especially indoors.
There are still locations where masks will be required, including on public transportation.
Baker has also said that some businesses may still require customers and visitors to continue wearing masks inside. Customers should respect those businesses and don a mask while inside, he said Friday.
Some of the hardest hit businesses have been restaurants, which can now welcome back visitors for indoor dining without restrictions.
About half the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
Baker will officially lift Massachusetts’ pandemic state of emergency on June 15.
Maine reported 108 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths Saturday.
The state’s cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to more than 67,600 on Saturday, according to the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the pandemic began, 825 people have died from COVID-19 in Maine.
The state also lifted most mask restrictions this week. Unvaccinated people are still encouraged to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces.
The Vermont Education Agency will strongly recommend that schools continue to follow the agency’s COVID-19 prevention measures for the rest of the school year when Vermont’s emergency order is rescinded, said Education Secretary Dan French.
“The majority of our students in the K-12 system will not be fully vaccinated before the end of the school year,” he said Friday, adding that there’s also not enough time left in the school year for schools to adopt new procedures.
Schools should plan to return to normal operations in the fall, with full in-person learning five days a week, French said.
The state believes it’s unlikely any mitigation measures will be needed in schools in the fall and distancing will not be necessary. Officials will review over the summer whether masks are needed.
“We feel confident about the fall due to the success of our vaccination efforts to date,” French said. “It will be important, however, for students and adults to continue to get vaccinated through the summer and fall but a large percentage of Vermonters will be fully vaccinated by the fall.”
Gov. Phil Scott has said that once 80% of Vermont’s eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, he will lift the remaining pandemic-related restrictions and then the emergency order.
Keene State College is honoring graduates with an in-person commencement ceremony Saturday, with plenty of safeguards in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Each graduate was allowed just two guests, and participants were being required to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus.
The campus was closed to anyone not involved with the ceremony, and was expected to reopen at 5 p.m.
Rhode Island’s current and former governors have issued a combined 170 executive orders since March 2020.
That’s more than any other New England state, according to a review by WPRI-TV.
Former Gov. Gina Raimondo issued 128 between March 2020 and March 2021, while Governor Dan McKee has signed 42 since he was sworn in on March 2, 2021, according to the governor’s website.
The review of The Council of State Governments’ data shows Connecticut has the second-most executive orders since March 2020, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.
Connecticut reported eight new COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths since the start of pandemic to more than 8,200.
State health officials reported about 200 new confirmed or probable cases of the disease bringing the total number of confirmed or probable cases in the state since the start of the pandemic to more than 347,000.
There were a total of 110 people hospitalized with COVID-19 Friday.
More than 9.2 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the state since the start of the pandemic.