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'The Governor Has To Be The One To Step Up' As Massachusetts Shifts Mask Guidelines

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Baystate Medical Center.
Baystate Health
/
MassLive / MassLive.com
A COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Baystate Medical Center.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control recommended people go back to wearing masks indoors in places where the delta variant of COVID-19 is surging — including those who have been vaccinated.

Some parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut fall into the areas where virus transmission is significant. But governors in both states said they wanted time to process the latest guidance.

On Friday, Massachusetts updated its guidance, now advising vaccinated people to wear masks in public when indoors if they are at risk for serious illness, or live with someone at risk. It's now also strongly recommended that school children in kindergarten through 6th grade wear masks this fall.

As we've certainly seen, a lot can change quickly with COVID-19, including public policy. These are recommendations, not requirements. 

Panelist Elizabeth Román said in Springfield, a large part of the Black and Latino population is still not vaccinated.

"I think the numbers have gone up to about 50%, but that's still half of the population that isn't vaccinated, and is at risk, whether it's delta or not," Román said. "So I think that when the governor makes these statements about how we're doing so well as a state, he does need to take into consideration the larger populated areas, and the poorer communities, where people still aren't aren't vaccinated."

Baker has continued to say cities and towns can take stronger action if they choose to. 

Panelist Tammy Daniels said that's not really happening in her area of the state.

"We're in a very rural part of the area up here in northern Berkshire County, and I think communities here have been very careful about not going farther than the lead of the governor," Daniels said. "If they want people to do something, I think the governor has to be the one to step up and sort of set the guidelines for the way communities should be working. No communities here have, on their own, determined these types of guidelines. They've all gone by what the governor has said."

Also this week, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins was nominated by President Biden to be the next U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. If confirmed by the Senate, she would become just the second woman, and first Black woman, to hold the job. Her nomination has been rumored for months. Rollins has been  praised by progressives, but criticized by police unions.

It may not be smooth sailing for Rollins in the Senate, though. Tom Cotton, a Republican senator from Arkansas, said he'd try to block Rollins' confirmation, saying some of her policies, and those of other Democrats, have led to a jump in crime.

Moving locally, the Berkshire District Attorney recently said she would not be issuing guidance to communities on what to do when a police officer ends up on something called the "Brady List." That means an officer has proven credibility issues, and may not be able to be called to testify in a case.

Panelist Román wrote recently about a charter school in Springfield breaking ties with a national operator. It's having trouble getting access to employee records so they can get paid

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