States may soon drop outdoor mask mandates, medical experts say


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Local health experts say states may soon drop their outdoor mask requirements as vaccinations push forward.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said in a tweet while wearing masks indoors is still necessary, outdoor infections of COVID-19 are rare and mostly tend to happen when large groups gather in packed spaces.

He said he expects states to drop their outdoor mask mandates over the next few weeks.

But Rhode Island doesn’t plan on changing it’s mask requirements just yet.

Gov. Dan McKee said the state is not ready to lift any of its mask mandates. But he also said Tuesday that, once 70% of Rhode Islanders are fully vaccinated, those restrictions may loosen. McKee expects that to happen by June 5.

“We are going to continue to do this incremental flexibility and continue to open up our economy based on safety,” he said.

Dr. Leonard Mermel, medical director at Lifespan’s Department of Epidemiology and Infection Control, agreed wearing a mask outdoors is not necessary. Instead, Dr. Mermel says Rhode Islanders should “focus their masking on the higher-risk settings.”

The New York Times is reporting Rhode Island last week has the second highest COVID-19 case count in the country per capita, behind Michigan.

“Masking outdoors, walking down the street, walking your dog, walking with someone who is in your pod, is not a COVID risk, be it the high prevalence or low prevalence,” Dr. Mermel said.

New Hampshire was the first New England state to drop its mask mandate completely, while outdoor mask mandates will be lifted in Connecticut starting next month. As of last week, Massachusetts has not yet followed suit.

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