As the number of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations slowly falls, cities and states are loosening vaccine and mask requirements.
Boston lifted the city’s proof of vaccine policy which required patrons and staff of indoor spaces to show proof of vaccination, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Friday.
“As of today, our public health data show that Boston is officially below the 3 critical thresholds for heightened Covid protections, so we are lifting the proof of vaccination requirement,” Wu said in a tweet.
“This news highlights the progress we’ve made in our fight against Covid-19 thanks to vaccines & boosters – which have always been our most effective weapon against the pandemic. It’s a win for every Bostonian doing our part to keep our communities safe, and we have to keep going,” Wu said.
Public health data shows Boston has a 4.0% community positivity rate; 90.7% occupancy rate of adult ICU beds, and 7-day average of adult Covid-19 hospitalizations at 195.9 per day, a decline from all three previously announced thresholds, according to the mayor’s website.
Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, commissioner of public health and executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said in a statement: “I’m encouraged by our COVID-19 data and optimistic about where our city is headed.”
“The City’s Covid-19 response has been guided by science throughout the pandemic, and we will continue to make data-driven decisions in our mitigation and response strategies in order to keep everyone safe,” the statement continued.
The requirement to wear masks in public indoor spaces remains in place, however, the commission and the city’s Board of Health will be reviewing the mandate in the coming days, the city said.
States and cities are lifting indoor restrictions
Boston joins several other cities and states lifting indoor restrictions in recent weeks, including Philadelphia, Nevada, New York and Hawaii’s Maui County, citing a notable decline in Covid-19 cases after the Omicron variant wave spread across the US in the last few months.
A growing number of states – the majority with Democratic governors – have announced plans to end their indoor or school mask mandates, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island.
Many of the states were early adopters of strict Covid-19 safety measures, and vaccination rates in all but one have climbed above the national average. In the United States as a whole, 64.6% of the population is fully vaccinated, as of Saturday.
Shifts to phase out state mask mandates conflict with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to continue wearing masks in areas with “high” or “substantial” Covid-19 transmission, which includes about 99% of US counties.
And much of the United States still is not boosted against Covid-19: Only about 43% of the US population has received a coronavirus vaccine booster shot as of Saturday, according to CDC data.
The CDC is working to review and possibly update its guidance on mask-wearing, but for now, states appear to be outpacing the White House in planning for a post-Omicron period.
“Proof of vaccination or testing will no longer be required for indoor service at restaurants, bars and gyms,” Maui County announced in a Facebook post.
“With the rapid decline of new COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations, we can safely eliminate the proof-of-vaccination requirement for bars, restaurants and gyms,” Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said.
Maui County officials still advised travelers and residents to continue wearing face masks while indoors in public spaces and to maintain social distancing when “in groups of people from outside your household.”
In Michigan, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services is no longer urging masks in schools and other indoor settings, citing the state’s “post-surge, recovery phase,” according to a news release Wednesday.
“This is good news for Michigan,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “While Michigan hasn’t had statewide mask policies since last June, this updated guidance will underscore that we are getting back to normal.”
The health department urged school districts to consider local conditions and decide on masking policies for school communities.
New York state lifted its statewide mask-or-vaccine requirement for indoor businesses – but not for schools – Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
The mask mandate still remains in place for schools, child care settings, hospitals, nursing homes and on public transit. Hochul said the state plans to review student Covid-19 test results and other metrics next month to decide whether to continue requiring masks in schools.
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard and Eric Levenson contributed to this story.