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A Call For 'Clarity' On Mask Rules, And A Plea For The Unvaccinated To Get The Shots

This week, some health officials in western Massachusetts issued mask mandates or advisories amid rising COVID-19 rates. 

Easthampton decided to go with the advisory. Bri Eichstaedt is the health director.

"I know the public is tired, I'm tired," Eichstaedt said. "So, we are just kind of hoping that people will take it upon themselves to comply with the advisory.”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker continues to hold off on a statewide mask mandate, but communities are allowed to impose stricter guidelines.

Panelist Ron Chimelis called for consistency and clarity — one way or another.

"I don't want to go back to masks. We don't really want to take steps backward. But if you don't have a mandate, if you're saying it's left up to individual people, many people will imply, 'Well, then it's not necessary.' And if it's not necessary, you can't blame people for not doing it," Chimelis said. "And I think people should do it. I think this is one of those issues where we need some clarity."

Panelist Mike Dobbs wrote about this in his weekly column. He talked about his frustration that the current delta variant surge has been largely driven by the unvaccinated — as described by federal health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"There are plenty of places to get vaccinated," Dobbs said. "Because every public health official will tell you, if we don't get vaccinated, we're going to have to put up with this stuff indefinitely, and that's not a prospect that's good for anybody."

There's been a problem keeping track of vaccination rates in some of the hilltowns of western Massachusetts. Shared zip codes make it seem like some communities are at 10%, and others are over 100%.

Randy Crochier, a health director for several Franklin County towns, said he believes the rates are actually around 70%.

"People look at these numbers … and they go, 'Oh my God, the sky is falling, how come nobody in my town is getting vaccinated?'" Crochier said. "When that's far from the truth."

A spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health said they're working to fix the problem "in the future." Adam Hinds, who represents the area, said inaccurate state data on population has also caused problems with school funding and more.

Speaking of population counts, more 2020 U.S. Census data was released this week. It showed Massachusetts becoming a more racially and ethnically diverse state with modest population growth, although it stayed mostly flat in the western part of the state. The numbers have been highly anticipated, as they are the basis for redrawing congressional and state legislative districts.

And finally this week, former U.S Senator Scott Brown, who once represented Massachusetts, said he's ready to get back into politics, but didn't provide many details. The Republican has been living in New Hampshire and had a failed Senate bid there.

Dobbs said he has "extremely little respect" for Brown, who he called a "political opportunist." Chimelis joked that Brown has "four states in New England left" that he hasn't campaigned in.

"He won't win in Massachusetts. He didn't win in New Hampshire," Chimelis said. "He's in a rock band. Maybe he should stay there."

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