BOSTON — The state of emergency instituted in March 2020 will officially end on June 15 and most restrictions on capacity and face coverings will be lifted on Saturday.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed an executive order rescinding more than a year of pandemic protocols that restricted business and school operations.
The governor cited the dramatic drop in new cases and hospitalizations since the earlier in the year and the state's progress in vaccinating the population.
"Thanks to the people Massachusetts who made enormous sacrifices over the course of the past year to get us to this point, brighter days are very much upon us," he said at his Friday COVID-19 update. "We've been battling the virus for too long, but today we have an opportunity to put an exclamation point on all the hard work that so many people have done and continue to move Massachusetts forward together."
There are more than 900 vaccine clinics and places to get the vaccine and the focus will be on increasing targeted communities through local and mobile clinics, and a "big expansion" of the homebound program.
"The science shows vaccinated, people are highly unlikely to spread the virus to others. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect you, your family and your friends. The vaccine is free, and you don't need an ID or insurance to get one," Baker said.
"A big part of the success we've seen in the drop in cases and hospitalizations and deaths since January is very much attributed to the people who have gotten vaccinated."
The order does extend into the summer certain restrictions -- including face coverings on public transportation -- but the bulk of the limitations will expire as of Saturday.
"We filed legislation to temporarily extend a few measures that were put in place by executive order over the previous 15 months," said the governor. "We'll work with our colleagues in the Legislature and with municipal leaders to address these issues, hopefully before the 15th of June."
A modified declaration of a public health emergency allows for directives on face coverings are worn in this specific settings and to keep certain health measures in place to support testing, tracing and vaccination efforts for the next school year.
"All schools will be required to be in person full time, five days a week, and all education department health and safety requirements will be lifted, including distancing requirements," the governor said of the new school year in the fall.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito thanked the businesses that had worked with state officials during "a very long 15 months to fight the pandemic."
"I wish to thank all of our residents in our communities across our state who stepped up and did their part, throughout this past year," she said. "Thank you to our business owners who also stepped up to incorporate the numerous protocols to keep both workers and their customers safe. They got partners at the local level, and our local boards of health for collaborating and working so hard with our administration, to help us get to this point."
She touted the "Let's Go Out" campaign to encourage peoploe to support their favorite restaurants and businesses.
"We're also going to educate customers, consumers that restaurant dining may not be exactly the way it was before the pandemic, they may encounter safety measures like altered or reduced menus changed floor plans and contactless payment," Polito said. "All these changes are to keep both customers and staff safe."
As of Saturday, capacity limits are being lifted and those who have been fully vaccinated will not be required to wear face coverings except in certain situations.
Baker urged residents to be mindful and respectful of people who are still leery of the novel coronavirus and businesses that wish to continue social distancing and other measures. The governor said if he is asked to wear a mask, he will.
"I think all of us need to continue to be what Massachusetts has been since we started this, which is be respectful of their friends and their neighbors, and to recognize that not everybody is going to be in the same place psychologically as everybody else," he said. "It's been a really hard, tough year for people. And I think that's something people should incorporate into the way they think about that if somebody has a business and they'd like you to wear a mask when you come in."
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition presented the Northern Berkshire Emergency Operations Center Team with the Hero Award at their 35th annual meeting.
"This goes to a group of individuals that came together as a team to make sure this community stayed connected, informed, and were supplied with the necessary resources," board President Jennifer Civello said Friday at the meeting that was held at Greylock Works. "All while ensuring the safety systems continued uninterrupted during the pandemic."
Every year at its annual meeting, NBCC presents the Hero Award to a group or individual who has made a difference in the region.
This year the choice was clear — the Northern Berkshire Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) Team, who quickly mobilized and reacted to a global pandemic that was firming its grip around Berkshire County.
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