ALBANY – States started with similar COVID-19 restrictions when the pandemic first struck in March 2020, and they are now moving toward similar rules as the virus’ spread slows.
States across the Northeast in particular have fairly consistent policies when it comes to mask wearing and capacity limits in restaurants and businesses, largely following federal guidance.
For example, on Monday, New Jersey said it would join neighboring states and lift its mask mandate starting Friday as COVID rates fall.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, my administration has been guided by science, data and facts to put New Jersey on the road to recovery with the public health and safety of all New Jerseyans as our highest priority,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
States, however, do have some fluctuations in their lifting of COVID safety protocols. Some have already dropped most restrictions, while others are doing so in the coming days during the Memorial Day weekend.
And the rules depend on whether you are vaccinated. The end of requiring masks in many cases is only for those who are vaccinated, for instance.
Also, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. For unvaccinated people, the CDC said they should get tested one to three days before their trip, three to five days after travel, as well as stay home and self-quarantine for seven days after travel.
The CDC also requires all air passengers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested for COVID no more than three days before their flight departs and to present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID to the airline before boarding the flight.
Here are the COVID rules in neighboring states:
In addition to ending its mask restrictions in most cases starting Friday, New Jersey also stopped its travel advisory on May 17.
That means residents returning home and travelers visiting New Jersey do not need to quarantine, but should follow travel precautions, such as quarantining if you feel sick or were near someone who was COVID-positive.
Murphy’s order lifting the indoor masking rules has some exceptions. Masks will still be required on public transit and in healthcare settings, childcare facilities and schools.
And businesses could still require masks to be worn. And social distancing of 6 feet still needs be maintained.
And so long as social distancing is maintained, establishments are not subject to a percentage-based capacity limit.
Having a party? The limit on house parties is 50 people.
If you’re visiting New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this month that you can also go get a vaccine, meaning you could schedule an appointment even if you’re not a resident.
New York is hoping it can bring back tourists, which is a critical part of its economy.
“We are in a post-COVID world. Not entirely, we still have one hand managing the COVID beast, but with the other hand, it’s time to plan our rebirth,” Cuomo said May 11.
Cuomo earlier this month lifted most business capacity restrictions — which had been based on a percentage of maximum occupancy.
Like other states, that means businesses will only be limited by their ability to keep patrons at the social distance of 6 feet.
But for vaccinated people, New York is following CDC guidance that allows businesses to eliminate the social distancing requirement — so long as proof of full vaccination is shown.
So that has meant New York has been able to go to near full capacity for New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets’ playoff games because most of the arenas are vaccinated sections.
A 12 a.m. food and beverage curfew was lifted for outdoor dining areas, and it ends May 31 for indoor dining areas.
For indoor parties, gatherings can increase from 10 to 50 people. And masks are still required some places, including on the New York City transit system.
Connecticut lifted its mask mandate soon after the CDC did May 19.
So outdoors, masks are not required, but indoors unvaccinated people must still wear masks.
“Masks are required to be worn by everyone in certain settings such as healthcare facilities, facilities housing vulnerable populations, public and private transit, correctional facilities, schools and childcare,” the state’s guidance says.
Businesses and governments still have the option to require masks to be worn by everyone in their establishments
The state’s travel advisory ended March 19, but the state also wants residents and visitors to Connecticut to follow CDC guidelines.
And Connecticut has also gone to a social distancing limit on its restaurants and bars — not a specific capacity limit.
On Saturday, Massachusetts will end many of its COVID safety restrictions.
That means an end to the mask mandate for those vaccinated, except when on transit systems, in schools and in facilities housing vulnerable populations.
The state is also ending its gathering limits, but restrictions on restaurants and bars will be based on social-distancing guidelines.
Gov. Charlie Baker is also ending its COVID state of emergency June 15.
As of May 14, Vermont dropped its testing requirements when coming to the state.
“People can come and go freely,” the state’s website said.
The state still has capacity restrictions: 1 unvaccinated person per 50 square feet, up to 300 people, plus any number of vaccinated people.
More people can also gather in outdoor spaces: 900 unvaccinated people, plus any number of vaccinated people.
And like other states, people who are fully vaccinated may go without a mask in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
“It’s time to reward all of the hard work you’ve done over the past 14 months to help make Vermont’s pandemic response the best in the country,” Gov. Phil Scott said May 14.
The Wolf administration on May 4 announced it was eliminating all temporary capacity limits on businesses on Memorial Day.
That means restaurants, stores and others businesses can open at 100% capacity, and all crowd-size limits will be lifted on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Social distancing, however, will still be in place.
“We continue to make significant progress in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the CDC evolves, we can continue to move forward with our reopening efforts,” Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam said in a statement.
The state has also lifted its mask mandate for those who are vaccinated, and it will lift it for everyone when 70% of the state is vaccinated.
Delaware ended most of its restrictions May 21.
That means that capacity restrictions at restaurants, stores, places of worship and other businesses have been lifted.
So they can host as many people as they can fit, but by still staying under the state’s social distancing requirement — which is moving from 6 feet to 3 feet.
Having a large event? Any events with more than 250 people – indoors or outdoors – will require plan state Division of Public Health approval.
While the state lifted its mask mandate for vaccinated people, businesses can still require masks for customers and employees.
And unvaccinated individuals should still wear masks in public settings, per CDC guidelines.
Maryland dropped nearly all remaining COVID restrictions on businesses, restaurants and venues on May 15.
Gov. Larry Hogan said capacity limits will only be predicated on social distancing space.
Masks can be taken off for those who are vaccinated, but they will still be required on public transportation, and in schools, child care and health care settings.
But like other states, private businesses and workplaces can install their own masking and social distancing policies — and local government can have their regulations, too.
Also new in Maryland: The cruise terminal in Baltimore will be reopening.
Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany