Life will soon look a whole lot more normal again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announced that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks outdoors and in most indoor settings. And come Memorial Day, Pennsylvania will be fully reopened, excluding Philadelphia, which has its reopening planned less than two weeks later, on June 11.
Here’s what the reopening means, and what rules remain in place until then.
Pennsylvania reopening: May 31
As soon as the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on Memorial Day, all COVID-19 restrictions related to gatherings, restaurants, and other businesses will be lifted in Pennsylvania.
This means places such as salons, gyms, theaters, bars, and stores can all return to full capacity, restaurants no longer need to space out their tables, and there won’t be any crowd-size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Cleaning, sanitizing, and distancing mandates for business owners are also lifted, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recently announced, but all are encouraged to follow CDC guidance.
Schools also no longer need to report their coronavirus prevention measures to the state, but the updates don’t prevent municipalities and school districts from implementing stricter mitigation efforts, says the Department of Health.
As for masking, currently the state’s mask mandates match the CDC’s recently updated guidance, meaning if you’re fully vaccinated, you can stop wearing masks in outdoor and most indoor settings. Everyone is still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation, and you’ll need to follow the guidance of workplaces and local businesses. If you’re unvaccinated, you remain required to wear a mask when you’re away from home until 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.
Leading up to the full reopening, Pennsylvania will begin to relax current restrictions. Starting May 17, indoor-capacity limits will increase to 50%, doubling the current level, and to 75% for outdoor events, up from 50%.
Philadelphia reopening: June 11
Eleven days after Pennsylvania reopens, Philly will reopen, too, lifting all COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, restaurants, and other businesses. Masking requirements remain in place. The Public Health Department says it’s currently reviewing the CDC’s updated guidance on mask use for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Starting May 21, a few changes will go into effect that relax current restrictions, including the lifting of all capacity limits on offices, stores, museums, and libraries.
Restaurants, which are allowed to operate at 50% capacity (or 75% capacity if they can meet enhanced ventilation standards), will be allowed to reduce the distance between tables from six to three feet. And you’ll no longer need to purchase food if ordering alcohol.
Indoor catered events can take place at 25% capacity of the venue’s occupancy limit, with a maximum of 250 people, including staff, if there’s no music, dancing, or alcohol, and a maximum of 150 people, including staff, if there is music, dancing, and/or alcohol.
Outdoor catered events can take place at 50% of the venue’s occupancy limit, with no maximum cap on the number of people.
Gyms and indoor pools can open at 75% of their occupancy limit, or 15 people per 1,000 square feet. Exercise classes will be capped at 25 people. There are no capacity limits for outdoor pools.
Indoor gatherings and theater performances are allowed to operate at 50% of the venue’s occupancy limit. Social distancing must be maintained at a minimum of three feet between people or groups.
Outdoor venues can operate at 50% of their occupancy limit if they have fixed seating. If there isn’t fixed seating, a maximum of 33 people per 1,000 square feet is allowed. This includes sporting venues, such as Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies announced that they will increase capacity from 11,000 to 16,000 and are planning for a full reopening on June 12, when they take on the New York Yankees. Social distancing must be maintained at a minimum of three feet between people or groups.
Casinos can operate at 50% capacity, or at 75% capacity if they can meet enhanced ventilation standards. Social distancing must be maintained at a minimum of three feet between people or groups. Alcohol can now be sold at gaming machines.
New Jersey (partial) reopening: May 19
Beginning May 19, New Jersey will remove limits on outdoor gatherings, and indoor gathering limits will increase from 100 to 250 people.
Stores, restaurants, salons, gyms, theaters, and other businesses will be allowed to operate at full capacity as long as people can remain six feet apart. The same goes for places of worship.
Masking requirements remain in place for everyone, vaccinated or not, when indoors in a public place. If you’re vaccinated and outside, you don’t need a mask. If you’re unvaccinated and outside, you need to wear a mask when in close proximity to others.
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Feeling nervous about the reopening?
It’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed right now. We have guides to help you deal with the anxiety, whether you’re nervous about returning to a normal social life or can’t shake the fear of getting COVID-19, despite being vaccinated and in low-risk situations.
How do the mask guidelines work?
Here’s a breakdown of the CDC’s guidance.