Masks Come Off in Boston on Saturday. Isn’t That Nice??

It's a very welcome sign of how far the city has come on various pandemic metrics.

mask mandate sign

Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

How’s everybody doing? You alright? Starting to feel some tension lifting a bit, maybe? No? Yes?

Whatever it is, you do you. But however you feel about the way things are trending, consider the latest news from City Hall your invitation to take a deep breath and, who knows, possibly even mellow out a little!

In case you hadn’t heard, the city has just announced plans to relax indoor masking rules in all kinds of public spaces, like grocery stores, malls, gyms, music venues, government buildings and so on. The new rules take effect on Saturday, March 5, which will come about two weeks after the city ended its vaccine mandate for certain indoor businesses. Boston Public Schools will keep its mask rules for now, but could scrap them in a matter of days. And if you’re on the T or in a hospital, you can expect to wear a mask for a while longer.

Cambridge is dropping its mask mandate on March 14 (although you’ll still have to wear one if you have business in a municipal building through March 27). Somerville’s Board of Health will be chewing over its mask mandate at a meeting on Thursday, March 5.

You are, I’ll remind you, still welcome to wear an N95 in spaces where you feel uncomfortable—or everywhere, if you or someone close to you is at particular risk. You can keep skipping indoor concerts and bar crawls, and steer clear of gyms (places where, trust me, mask enforcement has been sparse at best). But everyone else is free to drop the masks and at least some of the anxiety associated with them (mostly elicited by people brazenly not wearing them in places where they were kindly asked to) if they so choose.

It’ll be a change of pace after a tough winter, sure. It was traumatic to see the numbers soar to shocking heights again these past couple months thanks to the Omicron variant. And, of course, another variant could be headed our way at some point in 2022.

But it’s important to remember that the reason we got to this place at this moment is because all the trends are moving in very, very promising directions right now. Case counts and hospitalizations have plummeted. The vaccination rate around here is high, and while it’s still lower among kids, it’s getting higher for them as well. The wastewater numbers haven’t looked this good since last July. So, celebrate!

As a reminder to the city’s most egregious loudmouths, here is what did not get us here: Being a huge pain in the neck about mask rules at every possible moment, storming into the Boston Public Library, screeching at Michelle Wu’s house at dawn, or any other strategies theoretically designed to make this day come faster. The rules changed more or less exactly how they were supposed to, as the situation improved.

As I’ve said a million times, it was never a major imposition to have to wear masks in indoor public spaces. It was easy, in fact! So it’s not as if some great burden has been relieved. Just consider this a moment to step back, take stock of how much better things have gotten here on the whole, and take a deep breath—maskless at Shaw’s or Shake Shack, as of Saturday, if you want.