COVID

Mass. just changed its mask advisory. Here’s what’s different.

Masks are still advised indoors for unvaccinated individuals.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
A mask caught in a tree on Ashburton Place in Boston. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
COVID Mandates:

Massachusetts public health officials updated their mask guidance on Tuesday, dropping a previous advisory that everyone should wear masks indoors, and instead recommending face coverings be worn by unvaccinated individuals and vaccinated persons with specific conditions.

The Department of Public Health, in a statement, said officials now advise “a fully vaccinated person should wear a mask or face covering when indoors (and not in your own home) if you have a weakened immune system, [or] if you are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition.”

The guidance also extends to people who have someone in their household who has “a weakened immune system and is at increased risk for severe disease or is unvaccinated,” the statement says.

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“Individuals who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a face covering or mask when indoors with others to help prevent spreading COVID-19,” officials said.

The updated guidance recognizes Massachusetts is “a national leader in vaccine acceptance” and takes into account that COVID-19 cases and other important public health metrics have decreased in recent weeks, the DPH said.

While the advisory marks a change in state guidance, not all vaccinated individuals should expect to go maskless right away.

Many cities and towns, including Boston, have put in place local mandates requiring masks at indoor establishments.

And even as Boston now has a set of metrics to determine when exactly the city could drop its indoor vaccine mandate, Mayor Michelle Wu made clear on Monday that the city’s mask mandate will remain in place at least for some time even after the vaccine requirement is lifted.

State officials also reminded the public on Tuesday all people, regardless of vaccination status, are required to continue wearing masks in certain settings, such as in health care facilities and while on public transportation.

Masks are still required in the state’s K-12 public schools until Feb. 28, although some school systems have already decided to keep the rule in place past the expiration of the state policy.

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