PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After more than a year of wearing them, masks are no longer required for Rhode Islanders who are fully vaccinated, in accordance with CDC guidance.
To be considered fully vaccinated, you are two weeks past your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks past your one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Vaccinated Rhode Islanders, I hope you hug a vaccinated friend, have a dinner at your favorite restaurant, and support our local businesses,” Gov. Dan McKee said during his announcement last week.
The state’s new mask guidance is putting the honor system to the test.
“Right now, we’re just taking everybody’s word for it,” Eric Matlack said.
Matlack runs Planet Fitness in East Providence and said he was excited to see members realize the new rules in place.
“I think everyone just wants to keep moving on with their lives, and the mask, just, getting rid of them will make it more normal now,” gym member Bridget Flaherty said.
Everyone is welcome to drop their masks at Planet Fitness, but employees aren’t doing so just yet.
“As a courtesy right? To just see what our customer base and what the public is comfortable with,” Matlack said.
Some businesses are not dropping their mask mandates just yet. Lisa Paratore, owner of Homestyle in Providence, said the state hasn’t been clear enough about the rules for retail stores.
Paratore said even though she believes vaccines are effective, she wants to wait before allowing customers to ditch their masks inside.
“Taking your mask off inside does not apply everywhere, and I don’t think the governor has been 100% clear about where it does and does not apply,” she explained.
Urban Fellow Barbershop is also keeping their mask mandate in place for the time being.
Owner Seth Davis said his phones have been ringing off the hook. He said customers have been calling about getting their beards trimmed, which is something the barbershop stopped offering during the pandemic.
But Davis said he’s not ready to drop the mandate just yet, especially since the guidelines for barbershops on the state’s reopening website have gone unchanged since July.
“We’re going to operate as we have been, because we still have to have a meeting as a team to figure out what our game plan is,” Davis said. “You would think as businesses we would have a heads up, but throughout this whole process, we find out things when you find out things.”
McKee said the state will provide more specifics on the new guidelines, but ultimately, it will be up to individual businesses on how they decide to apply them.
Places like hospitals, schools, and public transportation still require masks, so you’ll want to make sure you have one on you, regardless of your vaccination status.
Masks will also continue to be required inside all state judicial buildings, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status, the Rhode Island Courts posted on Twitter.
The governor also said the reopening measures planned for Memorial Day weekend, such as the lifting of the limit on business capacities and social gatherings, will be moved up a week to Friday, May 21.
The new changes come as Rhode Island surpassed more than 510,000 people fully vaccinated, while another 115,000 are partially vaccinated, having received only the first dose so far.
McKee hopes the new mask change encourages those who are not vaccinated yet to make an appointment.
The R.I. Department of Health also reported 89 new cases on Tuesday. Percent positivity came out to 1.3%, with more than 6,500 tests conducted in the prior day.
Two additional COVID-19-related deaths were also reported, bringing the total death toll to 2,703.
Hospitalizations declined to 77, which is the fewest since late September. Of those patients, 17 are in the intensive care unit and 14 are on ventilators, according to health officials.