After more than a year living through the mandates and restrictions that came with the pandemic, it might be time to take off the mask and enjoy the fresh air.
Medical experts, who have urged people to believe the science and follow the urging of health officials, now are leaning toward loosening the rules about wearing masks outdoors.
Gov. Chris Sununu dropped the statewide mandate in New Hampshire last Thursday, although several cities including Portsmouth, Keene, Nashua and Concord, have local mask mandates in place. Sununu might have jumped the gun, but with warmer temperatures and outdoor dining in the air we envision more outdoor maskless strolls and conversations. Sununu did urge residents to continue wearing a mask wherever they can’t follow social distance guidelines.
But don’t be hasty in ripping off that mask. First, it’s essential to be fully vaccinated and to use common sense wherever you are. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told CNN on Sunday that outdoor infections are rare and tend to come when people gather in large groups in crowded spaces. He urged people to keep wearing masks indoors, adding, “Indoors, of course, is where most of the infections happen so that needs to remain for a while longer.”
Walking outside without a mask and staying away from large groups is a low-risk activity at this point, Jha said, especially in areas where the COVID-19 infection rates are low and the number of vaccinated people is high.
Gov. Charlie Baker is sticking with the outdoor mask mandate but is likely to feel the pressure to loosen up as more states opt for letting people go mask-less when outdoors.
On Monday, anyone age 16 or over who lives, works or studies in Massachusetts became eligible for the vaccine. Over the weekend, Baker said more than 2 million residents had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
These are the kind of steps that show Massachusetts is headed in the right direction as more people get the jab.
People have been chafing at the mask, so to speak, and the warmer weather just makes mask-wearing harder to take. As long as residents use common sense and continue to wear masks indoors when possible, we think it’s time to stop hiding the smiles that come with greeting the day and chatting with friends outdoors.
A reminder to those who still haven’t gotten the shot, you can search for vaccine locations at vaxfinder.mass.gov.