Two doctors' groups on Tuesday urged Gov. Charlie Baker to require that students and adults wear masks in schools regardless of their vaccination status, a move the governor has avoided in favor of letting local officials make their own calls.
Massachusetts Medical Society President Dr. Carole Allen and Massachusetts Academy of Family Pediatricians President Dr. Julie Johnston described mask-wearing as "a public health measure proven to reduce the transmission of COVID-19" and said it is crucial to balance safety with the importance of returning "to full-time, in-person learning with as little disruption as possible."
"By introducing a statewide indoor masking policy for K-12 students consistent with guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics, the Commonwealth reaffirms its commitment to keeping all of our schools open and our students and staff safe," Allen and Johnston said. "It is imperative that Massachusetts teachers, staff, students, and visitors start this school year with uniform masking requirements to protect them and those with whom they live and interact outside of the academic setting."
Stockbridge Board of Health President Dr. Charles Kenny suggests that a policy recommending indoor masking, approved by all three towns, including Lenox and Lee, would carry more weight.
State officials have recommended, but not required, that students in kindergarten through sixth grade wear masks because those age groups cannot yet be vaccinated. They're also recommending older students and adults who are unvaccinated wear masks indoors at school. Baker has stood by that approach, pointing to the state's high vaccination rates and saying local officials are best positioned to make decisions for their districts.
"Giving locals the opportunity to own the decisions they make is a big and important issue, and if you look at what's playing out in other states right now where state government has taken away the authority for locals to make their own decisions, that's not the right way to play this game. It's just not," he said Monday.
In the week between Aug. 7 and Aug. 14, almost 2,700 fully vaccinated people became infected with COVID-19 in Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health said Tuesday.
There have been a cumulative 12,641 breakthrough infections reported out of 4,415,936 fully vaccinated people as of Aug. 14, DPH said Tuesday — meaning that 0.29 percent of all fully vaccinated people have subsequently been infected with the coronavirus, up from 0.23 percent of the immunized population a week ago and 0.18 percent two weeks ago.
In the week from Aug. 7 to Aug. 14, DPH counted 2,672 new breakthrough infections, about a 20 percent increase over the 2,232 breakthrough infections reported the previous week. A total of 496 people with breakthrough infections, or 0.01 percent of all vaccinated people, have been hospitalized and 124 fully vaccinated people, or 0.003 percent of people who have gotten vaccinated, have died of COVID-19, DPH said.
In its most recent weekly report, DPH reported 51 new hospitalizations and 18 new deaths among fully vaccinated people. The 2,672 newly-reported breakthrough cases represent nearly 40 percent of the state's recent one-week total of new cases, based on the seven-day average of 995.1 new cases each day that DPH lists for Aug. 14, the end of the seven-day period covered in DPH's latest breakthrough infection report.
As it did last week, DPH cautioned Tuesday that there are probably more breakthrough infections and hospitalizations among fully vaccinated people than it counts and can report.