Baker: Too early to say on school mask mandate extension

Boston Statehouse

Boys and girls sitting at desks, raising hands (Getty Images).

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Gov. Charlie Baker is not yet saying whether the state’s school mask mandate, currently in place through at least Nov. 1, should again be extended.

“We’ll talk to you about that when we get toward the end of the month,” Baker told reporters Monday afternoon.

In August, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education authorized Commissioner Jeff Riley to require masks for students age 5 and up and school staff through at least Oct. 1, and Riley on Sept. 27 extended the requirement another month. Schools that have attested to at least an 80 percent vaccination rate among students and staff are now able to drop the mask requirement for vaccinated individuals only.

“The reason we put the 80 percent in is because we felt that was the point at which buildings could be considered appropriate for having vaccinated people unmask,” Baker said. “We believe that unvaccinated people should continue to be masked and that’s been our guidance to school districts all along, consistent with the CDC guidance about vaccines and masks generally.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now published a planning guide for pediatric COVID-19 vaccine programs, based on the assumption of federal authorization of at least one vaccine for kids younger than 12.

Before ordering any pediatric vaccines — which will be in different doses than the shots for adults — Baker said the state will first need “some understanding about how many we’re going to need and where we think the primary locations will be” that the shots will be administered. With many vaccinators now able to order directly from the federal government, Baker said the state itself will likely not be the main entity ordering kids’ COVID-19 vaccines.

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