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Take a breath of fresh air: The state’s outdoor mask requirement loosens

People walked along Storrow Drive in Boston on Friday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

You can take that mask off, Massachusetts — if you’re outdoors and not in close contact with someone.

As of Friday, “Face coverings will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance,” the state website says.

But on Boston Common Friday afternoon, many people continued to mask up, even at a safe distance from others.

Among the masked was Trevor Goddard, 30, of Salem, walking his dog, Sakura, who said he’d continue to wear a mask, because it “goes with my outfit.”

Goddard, a comic book artist, said he invested in masks to match his outfits, so why stop wearing them now? It was “never a safety thing” for Goddard, he said, adding that he “believes in Corona” and “socially distanced before it was cool.”

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The Salem sketcher conceded that he’ll likely nix the masks come summer, if he gets “overly hot.”

Tanya Vetisova, 41, of Boston, was playing with her dog, Ray, on the Common and said she decided to go maskless after getting vaccinated. Had she not been able to receive the shots, she would’ve kept her mask on.

“I wore it everywhere before,” she said. “But I trust the government.”

Vetisova added that it was “kind of weird” to venture out without a mask after months of wearing a face covering whenever she left her home. She said it felt like “something was missing” without it Friday and kept a mask in her pocket, just in case.

Masks are still required at all times in indoor public places, as well as at events, whether indoors or outdoors, whether in a public place or a private home, according to the new guidelines.

At smaller gatherings in private homes, masks are recommended but not required. A $300 fine has been eliminated.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority reminded people Friday that masks are still required aboard vehicles, on station platforms, and otherwise within the MBTA system for all riders, including those fully vaccinated. That includes outdoor bus stops and all outdoor platforms.

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Civil fines are no longer in effect for those who don’t comply, according to the MBTA, though people who refuse may be denied boarding or removed from vehicles and the system.

Governor Charlie Baker announced the loosening of the outdoor mask mandate, which had been one of the nation’s toughest, on Tuesday. He also addressed the change during a briefing in Canton on Friday, linking the shift to the state’s ongoing vaccination rollout, which he said continues to make Massachusetts safer “for everybody.”

“There’s also been a bunch of research that’s now been done that shows that indoors is a lot riskier than outdoors,” Baker said. “And based on the research and where we are, we felt it was appropriate to basically say if you can be outside and not be with a whole bunch of people in close quarters for a long period of time, you don’t need to wear a mask.”

In Boston, officials are following the state’s lead but encouraging people to wear masks in certain situations.

Effective Friday, the city said on its website, face coverings “are not required outside in public spaces when individuals are able to remain at a safe distance from others,” but masks “are recommended to be worn both inside and outside during small gatherings at private homes.”

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And, the site said, masks “will be required at all times at indoor and outdoor venues and events, except when eating or drinking.”

The state’s outdoor mask policy doesn’t distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also on Friday loosened its recommendations but specifically for outdoor mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people, which the CDC defines as people who are two weeks beyond their second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or two weeks beyond their single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In early November, as the state was in the throes of its second surge, Baker ordered people in Massachusetts to wear masks in public, no matter what distance they were from others. But the state’s coronavirus metrics have been improving, and experts have been suggesting that the outdoor mask mandates were not needed.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Charlie McKenna can be reached at charlie.mckenna@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.