Universal masking is almost over at major Boston hospitals

Hospitals will lift their mask mandates Friday as the state ends its COVID-19 public health emergency.

Starting Friday, major hospitals in the Boston area will no longer require most people to wear masks while on their grounds. 

The state’s COVID-19 public health emergency is set to expire on May 11. The following day, Boston Medical Center, Mass General Brigham, Tufts Medical Center, Beth Israel Lahey Health, and UMass Memorial Health will lift their mult-year mask mandates requiring every person on hospital premises to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.

“Today, the number of COVID-19 cases has declined significantly, and the impact of infection has lessened due to improved access to testing, development of substantial immunity through vaccination, and availability of effective medical therapies. Given these changing circumstances, we are in a safer place to end universal masking at this time,” Dr. Sharon Wright, chief infection prevention officer at Beth Israel Lahey, said in a statement.


While masks won’t be mandatory for patients, staff, and visitors, people still have the option to wear them if they wish — and patients with COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with infected people may be required to wear them.

Tufts Medical Center said patients with respiratory symptoms should continue wearing hospital-issued masks while in hospital waiting rooms and hallways. Patients and visitors who have had close contact exposure to COVID-19 within the previous 10 days should also wear a mask, the hospital said. 

Hospital mask policies could evolve as health officials monitor COVID-19 infection rates.

“In the future, there may be circumstances when our policies are updated to include targeted or broader masking. Our experts will continue to re-evaluate our policies, as they have throughout the pandemic, and adjust as needed. We will keep patients informed of any changes,” Mass General Brigham said on its website.

Public health advocates had urged state officials to keep masking requirements in place in health care settings after the emergency declaration ends.

“Without universal masking precautions in healthcare, vulnerable people face substantial risk of being exposed in waiting rooms or clinical settings against their will, violating their autonomy, and deterring many from seeking much-needed care,” the Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity wrote in an open letter to healthcare facilities last month. 


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