Boston will lift its indoor mask mandate on March 5, city officials announced on Tuesday, citing improving COVID-19 metrics.
At a meeting Tuesday afternoon, the city’s board of health voted unanimously to endorse a recommendation from Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, commissioner of public health and executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, to rescind the order.
Here’s what you need to know.
Where do I no longer need to wear a mask?
The indoor mask mandate applies to indoor spaces like gyms, bars and restaurants, museums, and entertainment venues. On Saturday, people in those spaces will no longer be required to wear masks.
However, individual businesses can still implement their own mask policies.
The city is also lifting its masking requirement for city buildings, including for city employees, Mayor Michelle Wu’s office said in a statement.
Where do I still need to wear a mask?
There are a number of places where masks will still be required.
The mandate will continue for students and staff in Boston Public Schools “to keep students, teachers [and] staff safe,” Wu said on Twitter. The board of health will meet on March 9 to discuss masking in the city’s schools and other topics, Wu said.
Federal and state public health orders also mandate masks in other locations. People are required to wear face coverings on public and private transportation services, like the MBTA, commuter rail, and Uber and Lyft vehicles, and in transportation hubs like airports, according to federal rules. State measures also require masks to be worn in places like health care facilities, congregate care facilities, and prisons.
What is the city recommending?
While masks will no longer be required in certain indoor settings, the city is still encouraging mask wearing for certain groups.
For those who are at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 or who will be around people who are, the Boston Public Health Commission recommends continuing to mask in indoor public venues, Wu’s office said in the statement.
“There are many people in Boston who are vulnerable to COVID-19, including individuals who are immunocompromised, seniors, and those who are unvaccinated, including young children,” Wu’s office said. “Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator while indoors minimizes your risk of getting infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others.”
Why is the city lifting the mandate?
In announcing that the city will lift the requirement, Wu said Boston is “heading in the right direction,” citing declining COVID-19 positivity rates, less strain on the health care system, and higher vaccination rates.
“The decision was made based on key COVID-19 metrics, which show continued improvement in the prevalence and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Boston,” Wu’s office said in a statement.
The city said that a mask mandate may be reinstated “if data show an increased risk of community transmission.” Wu’s office encouraged residents to consider their specific situation and risk factors, as well as the risks for people close to them, before opting to go without a mask.
It comes nearly two weeks after Wu lifted Boston’s proof-of-vaccination requirement for some indoor venues after the city’s COVID-19 metrics dipped below certain benchmarks the city had set.
COVID-19 cases have been declining in Massachusetts and the United States after a surge fueled by the Omicron variant, with state and federal public health officials loosening a number of measures in response in recent weeks.