The state reported 9 new deaths and 203 cases of the coronavirus Saturday, as Governor Charlie Baker lifted most of the public health restrictions imposed more than a year ago to battle the pandemic.
Starting Saturday, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or practice social distancing. Capacity restrictions also ended for outdoor gatherings, as well as for restaurants and other businesses.
People who are not vaccinated are being urged to continue with masks and adhere to distancing guidance. And everyone will still have to mask up when they board a plane, train, or bus — or if they are in a health care setting, officials have said.
Baker, who had announced earlier this month he would end the restrictions, has pointed to the state’s progress in fighting COVID-19. Daily numbers of new cases and deaths, and the state positivity rate have been on a decline for nearly two months.
More than 3.6 million people — more than half the state’s population — are fully vaccinated. And on Saturday, the state Department of Public Health reported the number of administered vaccinations rose by 48,604 to 7,797,000.
On Friday, Baker signed an executive order ending the restrictions beginning Saturday, according to a statement. The same order will also end the state of emergency on June 15.
The governor will seek to keep some pandemic measures in place after the state of emergency ends, according to the statement. That includes special permits for expanded outside dining for restaurants, a suspension of state rules for meetings of public government boards, and protections for COVID-19 patients from surprise medical bills.
“Over the last 15 months, the residents of Massachusetts have shown an incredible amount of strength and resiliency, and we are pleased to take this step forward toward a return to normal,” Baker said in a Friday statement.
Samuel Scarpino, a Northeastern University epidemiologist, said in a phone interview Saturday that the state has incredible progress with vaccinations, and that it is safe for fully vaccinated people to gather indoors.
But he raised concerns about the threat posed to unvaccinated people by more-infectious variants, like one identified recently in India.
The state must encourage greater vaccinations, and urged officials to develop incentives like in other states, which offer prizes to those who get vaccinated. Scarpino suggested people win a run around the bases at Fenway Park as a prize.
“I’m hoping that we will see creative strategies to increase vaccinations,” he said.
Scarpino urged those who have been vaccinated to be mindful of the health of anyone who has not received a vaccine shot.
“[It’s] just the basic thing we’ve been telling people for about a year now, which is just be conscious of the people that you are around, be respectful of their safety, and we can get through this together,” Scarpino said.
After the experiences of the past year, many people may not want to drop their guards just yet, he said.
“We’ve gone through a whole year of trauma, and some people, even if they are vaccinated, aren’t going to be ready to take off their masks yet. We need to give those people space and time and process all this,” Scarpino said.
“Maybe the word of the day is, ‘respectful,’ ” he said.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.