The state’s COVID-19 public health emergency will end on May 11 and the vaccination mandate for executive branch employees will be lifted, Governor Maura T. Healey announced Wednesday morning.
“Thanks to the hard work of our health care providers and communities, we’ve made important progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Healey said in a statement. “We know that we have the tools to manage this virus — vaccines, masking, testing, getting treatments and staying home when sick — and we’ve reached the point where we can update our guidance to reflect where we are now.”
Healey gave a nod to Governor Charlie Baker and his administration for saving “countless lives by putting these important measures in place in a time of immense crisis.” Baker first declared the state of emergency on March 10, 2020.
The May 11 end date aligns with the end of the federal public health emergency.
On that same day, Healey will rescind Executive Order 595, which required all executive branch state employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
The vaccine helped raise the percentage of fully vaccinated executive department employees from around 76 percent to over 99 percent, according to the governor’s office.
But it was also a controversial tool, prompting approximately 2 percent of the state workforce, or 1,000 workers, to leave their employment with the state.
“We will work closely with the public employee unions to implement these changes and will be discussing reinstatement options for employees with their representatives,” a spokesperson for the governor said. “Our top priority is maintaining safe, productive workplaces.”
Mandates for staff in certain roles and settings will remain in place, per federal and state regulations, the statement said.
The Healey administration also announced it will file new legislation that will allow six extra months of flexible staffing at out-of-hospital dialysis centers to give them “time to return to pre-COVID staffing levels,” as well as permanently reducing EMT ambulance staffing for advanced life support transports from a driver and two certified EMTS to a driver and one certified EMT.
“Three years on from the start of the pandemic, we are now in a very different place,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh. “While we will continue living with COVID-19, we can now incorporate the tools to manage this virus into our standing response to respiratory illness within our communities and healthcare system.”
Tonya Alanez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.