News & Events

Face Masks and Vaccines

05/20/2021

These are hopeful times. The CDC has announced their recommendation that vaccinated people can shed their masks both outdoors and indoors. In response to that guidance, Governor Baker announced a series of big changes for Massachusetts. Shira Doron, MD, Hospital Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Physician answers 5 common questions about wearing a mask under the new guidance.

Is it safe to lift all COVID-19 restrictions?

Beginning Saturday, May 29th, the state of Massachusetts is planning to lift all COVID-19 restrictions, including face masks. The number of cases statewide have drastically decreased over the last few months, thanks to the vaccine. By the time the order goes into effect, I believe it will be safer than it has ever been since the pandemic began to be out and about, even for those who are unvaccinated or vulnerable and even if not all unvaccinated people wear their masks. You mask protects you and others, so if you are unvaccinated or severely immunocompromised*, until case rates drop even lower, it is recommended that you wear a mask in indoor public places.

Are there situations where face masks should still be used?

Yes.  Masks will still be required in the following situations, regardless of vaccination status: 

  • Inside health care facilities (hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices)
  • Public and private transport
  • Schools and childcare centers
  • Other sectors with vulnerable individuals such as congregate care settings and rehabilitative day programs

In addition, we recommend that all people who are severely immunocompromised* and people who are unvaccinated wear masks in indoor public places. 

Is it safe for kids to play outside without masks?

Based on the new guidance, Massachusetts is now allowing kids to play outside during recess and youth sports without masks. We strongly support the state’s move to allow children to play outdoors, including organized sports, without masks. Accumulating data shows a low rate of transmission of COVID-19 outdoors, even in contact sports. If your child is more comfortable wearing a mask, he or she should feel free to do so. 

Should unvaccinated people still wear a mask? If they don’t, won’t that be dangerous to those who are immune compromised? 

The Department of Public Health is expected to release a face covering advisory that aligns with the CDC guidance advising unvaccinated people to wear masks. Even if unvaccinated people choose to enter indoor public places without a mask, vaccinated people are protected. While some immune compromised individuals may not experience the full benefit of vaccination, most will achieve partial protection. For those not fully protected from vaccination, wear a well-fitting, multi-layer masks to further protect yourself in public, until case numbers drop further. 

Should we wear masks while traveling (like in airports) or visiting other states?

Masks will be required for interstate travel for some time. If you are vaccinated and not severely immunocompromised, you can feel safe traveling. For those not fully protected from vaccination, until case rates drop further, make sure you are wearing a well-fitting, multi-layer masks to protect yourself.

Learn more about what activities are safe for you based on the CDC guidance >

*Examples include recipients of organ or bone marrow transplant, or receiving chemotherapy. Speak to your doctor about whether this applies to you