Governor hesitant to apply national mask guidance to Massachusetts

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – A day after a Democrat running for his job called on Gov. Charlie Baker to mandate that Massachusetts residents follow the latest federal recommendation on mask-wearing, the governor again defended his mask advisory as better-suited to the COVID-19 situation in Massachusetts.

“In some respects, it’s very difficult for me as the governor of the commonwealth, where 80 percent of adults have at least one dose and more than 70 percent of our population is fully vaccinated, to think about national guidance that’s very appropriate for certain parts of the country and apply that the same way here,” Baker said Tuesday in Revere. “We’re in a very different place than other parts of the country are in. I think our guidance, which really focused on vulnerable populations and people who are most at risk, was the right way to go.”

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans regardless of vaccination status wear a mask when indoors in counties that have substantial or high virus transmission rates. Baker’s administration on Friday advised that vaccinated Bay Staters wear masks in indoor public places if they or someone in their household is vulnerable to the disease.

On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Downing urged Baker “to implement a mask mandate that mirrors the CDC’s updated guidance” and said Baker ought to declare another state of emergency around the coronavirus. Also on Monday, Sen. Becca Rausch filed a bill that would mandate universal masking among students and staff in all K-12 schools and childcare programs, an idea Baker rejected Tuesday.

“We strongly recommended that local communities mask kids in grades K through six because there is no vaccination program for kids K through six at this point in time … strongly recommend is strongly recommend and I fully expect that most communities will do what they think makes the most sense for them,” the governor said.

He added, “Different communities are in different places. You have some communities in Massachusetts where 85 to 95 percent of all the kids in their middle and high school are vaccinated. You have many other districts in Massachusetts where the numbers are far, far smaller. Again, I don’t think you can apply a national standard to a state that is in the kind of space that we’re in.”

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