By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) – Governor Charlie Baker officially rescinded COVID orders Friday afternoon to allow Massachusetts to lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions on businesses and industries starting Saturday.

“I’ve said before that this was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my professional career,” said Baker. “The number of people that the Lieutenant Governor and I have talked to, communicated with, exchanged correspondence with, over the course of this year, who have gone through profoundly difficult times and circumstances is at times overwhelming. I have to say how grateful I am that people here in the Commonwealth adopted, adapted, adjusted, supported one another.”

The governor said “unless something very odd happens,” he believes the pandemic is “pretty much over.”

“Today is an important day. I know it’s been a very long 15 months to fight the pandemic. I’m pleased to be here to mark the lifting of business restrictions, and look forward to focusing our efforts on recovery moving forward as we get closer to our goal of vaccinating four million residents,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

Starting Saturday, there will be an end to capacity limits and any venues still closed under the governor’s orders can reopen.

The state’s mask mandate will expire and an advisory in line with CDC guidelines will be put in place. Masks will still be required by some businesses, health care settings, and on public and private transportation.

The State of Emergency in Massachusetts ends June 15.

A modified Declaration of a Health Emergency will remain to ensure that masks are worn in certain places and to allow the state to continue testing, tracing, and vaccination efforts.

“Thanks to the people of Massachusetts who made enormous sacrifices over the course of the past year to get us to this point. Brighter days are very much upon us. We’ve been battling the virus for too long but today, we have an opportunity to put an exclamation point on all the hard work that so many people have done,” said Baker.

He expects the date will reach 4.1 million fully vaccinated residents by mid-June.

Many are looking forward to getting out, and the Capitol Theatre in Arlington is ready for customers.

“I think people really need the movies. It’s one of the only places you can unplug and turn your brain off and have fun. You’re not on your phone, you’re not worried about what the other people are doing. You’re watching a movie and having a good time,” said Jamie Mattchen, of the Capitol Theatre.

Many say they are looking forward to discovering each other again — meeting people and sharing a sense of togetherness.

Being able to talk to the other guests at the bar. That’s how we are, we’re a community based neighborhood bar,” said Arpit Parel at Baramor in Newton.

“America will rediscover itself. We’ve been living in our house. We haven’t been living in America,” said Eric Elbot, of Groton.

Other people who spoke with WBZ-TV in Boston said they planned to make changes slowly. “I think we’ll be living with this one certainly for the rest of my life,” said Suzanne Benoit.

“It’s hard to just flip a switch and go right back to the way things were,” said Brigham and Women’s Hospital Infectious Diseases Dr. Paul Sax. “It would not surprise me if people continue to wear masks in many settings, in particular indoors, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
“I know some people who will never take these things off ever again,” said Donald French, pointing to his mask.

CBSBoston.com Staff