PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates trend downward, health officials and local governments are rolling back their mask-wearing requirements and recommendations.

In late February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the way it’s tracking COVID-19 at the community level, putting more emphasis on what’s happening at hospitals rather than positive test results, and assigned new risk levels based on that.

People in areas considered to be low or medium risk of transmission no longer need to wear masks in public, the CDC said, but those at high risk due to their location or a medical condition should continue to wear them indoors.

Masks are no longer required on public transportation after a federal judge in Florida voided the CDC’s extension of the mandate.

Under the new guidelines, all of Rhode Island and Massachusetts is considered either low or medium risk.

Here’s the latest information on masking in those two states:

Rhode Island

The statewide mask mandate for schools was lifted in early March, but remained in effect for another month in Providence due to low vaccination rates in that district.

The CDC no longer requires masks on school buses or vans, but that decision is also being made at the local level.

Many local colleges and universities have loosened their mask rules as well.

Following the CDC’s updated guidance, state leaders said most people now don’t have to wear masks in public if they don’t want to.

Gov. Dan McKee’s statewide “mask or vax” policy, which required most businesses to have patrons wear masks or show proof of vaccination, was lifted in mid-February, but some establishments may still have that requirement in place.

The bottom line: always have a mask handy, just in case.


The Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) recommends that as of March 1, masks should continue to be worn by certain people and in certain settings.

People who are not fully vaccinated should mask up in indoor public settings, along with people who are at higher risk for serious illness due to age or medical condition, even if fully vaccinated.

While the CDC has said masks are no longer required on school buses, the DPH says they must still be worn on public and private transportation, in health care and congregate care facilities, and at emergency shelters and prisons.