Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, pictured at a Dec. 20, 2021 press conference, announced last week that the city would no longer require face masks in indoor public spaces beginning on Saturday. Mayor's Office Photo by Isabel Leon
March 5 (UPI) -- Boston lifted its masking mandate for indoor public spaces Saturday, following in the steps of municipalities across the country scaling back COVID-19 precautions as case counts and hospitalizations drop.
People are no longer required to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces, including gyms, restaurants and entertainment venues like theaters. Masks mandates remain in place for public transportation, group care settings, emergency shelters, prisons and the Boston Public Schools system.
"I'm grateful that our city is ready to take this step in our recovery thanks to the hard work and commitment of residents keeping our communities safe over many, many months," Mayor Michelle Wu said in a March 1 press release announcing the city's decision.
"As we continue to make progress even while living with COVID, Boston will continue leading on public health to keep our communities safe, healthy, and prepared."
Individual business owners may also continue with a mask requirement for workers and patrons if they so choose, the city clarified in its press release.
"I love it, it's like going back in time. It's nice to see people's faces," Pavel Polanco-Safadit told The Boston Globe on Saturday while visiting the city's historic Quincy Market with his wife.
Boston is the latest in a line of cities implementing rollbacks of COVID-19 prevention measures, even in regions that have been exercising caution for the last two years. The trend indicates a tentative optimism from public health experts fueled by declining case counts and low hospitalization rates.
According to a case tracker from the New York Times, daily case averages have been steadily declining since a spike in January linked to the highly contagious Omicron variant. Around 50,000 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Friday, down from more than 930,000 on Jan. 14.
New York Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday that the city would no longer require proof of vaccination for indoor public spaces, encompassing bars, restaurants, museums, nightclubs, features and other venues.
"Two years ago, New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic, but thanks to New Yorkers getting vaccinated and getting boosted we have made tremendous progress," Adams said. "New Yorkers should be getting out and enjoying our amazing city."
Additionally, mask mandates up and down the West Coast are expected to relax next week -- California has announced it will eliminate face masks in schools on March 12, while Oregon and Washington are eliminating indoor mask mandates altogether the same day.