Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Medical Experts Urge Governor Baker To Require Masks In MA Schools

Two sign-on letters from Massachusetts physicians and public health experts urge masking to preserve in-person learning and avoid future COVID-19 outbreaks 

This evening, two coalitions totaling over 200 public health and medical experts sent sign-on letters to Governor Baker and Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, head of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, urging the administration to implement universal indoor masking in Massachusetts schools for the 2021-2022 school year. This broad support for masking comes on the heels of today’s updated CDC guidance and the American Academy of Pediatrics' interim guidance on COVID-19 safety in schools, both of which encourage in-person learning with mandatory mask-wearing indoors and vaccinations for all eligible students, staff, and faculty.  

This push by medical professionals comes in the wake of recent pressure on the Baker Administration from elected officials and public health experts. On July 21, a coalition of legislators led by Senator Becca Rausch (D-Needham) called on Governor Baker to require masks indoors in early education programs and grades K-6 for the upcoming school year. While Governor Baker publicly rejected any change to masking guidance, Boston Mayor Kim Janey announced on July 22 that all Boston Public School students will be required to wear masks at school in the fall. 

"Schools and school-supported programs are fundamental to children’s development and well-being, and we must take all available measures to keep children at school in person," said one letter, penned by Dr. Regina LaRocque, an infectious disease physician and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "The rapid, ongoing spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant in Massachusetts represents a serious risk as the 2021-2022 school year begins. Young children lack protection from disease, and vaccination rates among adolescents are insufficient to prevent outbreaks in school communities." 

The second letter, written by Dr. Natalya Davis, a Quincy pediatrician, notes that mask-optional schooling is not viable for multiple reasons, including increased risk for illness and quarantine for students, families, and staff; peer pressure and bullying due to individual mask decisions; and the creation of separate groups based on parental preferences. 

"Our goal should be to keep children at school and learning. We cannot prevent every illness, but we can certainly mitigate the risks with a simple mask,” said Dr. Davis in the letter. “This change will be beneficial, helping keep our children in school, without hybrid learning or long quarantines – but only if masks are mandatory." 

"As a mother of two young children, I understand firsthand the fear of navigating our post-lockdown world without the protection of a vaccine," said Senator Becca Rausch. "Medical and public health experts in Massachusetts and nationwide are saying it loud and clear: masks work.  Our children and families should not be forced to risk illness and future school closures due to any delay in implementing necessary public health measures." 

Prior to today's updated CDC guidance on mask wearing, large American cities including Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York City, and Chicago already announced mask mandates for the upcoming school year. 

Copy of letter from (attached)

Medical Experts Urge Governor Baker To Require Masks In MA Schools
Medical Experts Urge Governor Baker To Require Masks In MA Schools

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