Masks no longer required for fully vaccinated Rhode Islanders

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – On Tuesday, Governor Dan McKee lifted the mask mandate in the Ocean State both indoors and outdoors at most places for fully vaccinated people.

The announcement comes after the CDC announced a major change in guidance. The change gives fully vaccinated people the option to not wear masks or practice social distancing indoors and outdoors.

Rhode Island will begin following that guidance on Tuesday, so things may look different around certain stores, gyms, and restaurants.

Planet Fitness made the change quickly, posting a new mask policy on the doors of their Cumberland location. Inside the gym, some members wore masks and some didn’t. Plastic barriers stayed up between treadmills and every other piece of equipment remained blocked off.

“It feels great! It’s just so relieving,” Donald Hartley from Lincoln said. “”I got my second vaccination weeks ago and I also meet my two older brothers here. We’re all a family unit and retired so we come 3 to 5 times a week and it’s a social thing.”

Stephen Lukin, owner of Planet Fitness Cumberland, says they’re taking baby steps.

“How great is it to see someone smile? How does that make you feel?” Lukin said. “It certainly makes me feel great. You can do your best with eye expressions and body language, but nothing beats a beautiful smile.”

Lukin says staff will continue to wear masks and members can check online to see how crowded the gym is at the time.

“We trust our members,” Lukin said. “We feel if they feel confident coming into the facility because everybody is going to do the same and just be honest about their situation, I think everything will be great. We’re not going to check vaccinations we feel that would be a violation of our member’s privacy.”

Private businesses are able to still require masks if they decide to do so and Rhode Islanders can also still choose to wear masks in public if they choose. Some places like Whole Foods had signs outside the store reminding customers their mask policy is still in place.

While the news is long time coming for residents across the Ocean State, some health experts fear it may be too soon.

“The problem is how it’s being implemented,” Brown University’s Dr. Ashish Jha said. “The states that are lifting mask mandates are doing so for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. That’s why I think the lifting of the mask mandates right now is unwise. We should wait a little bit longer until more Americans get the vaccine.”

Residents who have not yet gotten vaccinated are still required to mask up indoors and in crowded outdoor settings.

Governor Dan McKee also announced the state is moving up its reopening timeline from May 28th to May 21st.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Rhode Island