Masks can come off starting Tuesday, with some exceptions

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Islanders who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer be required to wear face coverings in most situations starting Tuesday, but there remains some uncertainty as rules may vary from place to place.

Gov. Daniel McKee announced the updated mask regulations on Friday in line with federal guidance, but some businesses are awaiting further instructions from the state, which may not come until Thursday, The Providence Journal reported Monday.

“Consistent with the latest CDC guidance, effective May 17 customers who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear face coverings inside of our stores, unless it is mandated by state or local regulations,” CVS spokesperson Tara Burke wrote in an email to the newspaper.

Employees, however, will still be required to wear masks, she said.

Target in a statement Monday made a similar announcement, saying it “will no longer require fully vaccinated guests and team members to wear face coverings in our stores, except where it’s required by local ordinances.”

The new guidelines do not change policies at Rhode Island hospitals and medical practices, where masks will continue to be required for staff and visitors.

“The CDC is specific that their new guidance does not apply to health care,” Care New England spokesperson Raina Smith said.

Nor does the new guidance change policy at Rhode Island schools, state Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said, pointing out that many students remain unvaccinated.

“The CDC’s guidance is that schools continue to use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies for the 2020-2021 school year,” Wendelken said. “That means that students, teachers, and staff continue to wear masks, whether they have been fully vaccinated or not. Rhode Island is aligning with this approach.”

On Monday, Rhode Island health officials reported one new death and nearly 60 additional cases of COVID-19 since Friday.

The state health department also said some 80 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, and more than 600,000 residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Rhode Island has had 2,700 deaths and more than 150,000 cases of the virus since the pandemic started.

The average daily new cases in the state has dropped over the past two weeks, from 266 to 138 as of May 15, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island