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More than 1,700 readers voted, here’s what they say about a statewide mask mandate

"The insanity has to end. If masks are reinstated, there is literally no end game here."

Mask-wearing travelers queue at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington, May 21, 2021. In welcome relief for a battered industry, airlines say a summer travel bonanza is exceeding expectations, helping them earn profits again. (Lindsey Wasson/The New York Times) Lindsey Wasson/The New York Times

Conversations about new COVID-19 cases are starting to sound eerily familiar to the early days of the pandemic when uncertainty around best practices to fend off the virus led to weeks of back and forth about masking and other restrictions. Upticks in coronavirus cases caused by the Delta variant have local officials returning to early restrictions. 

When asked about a statewide mask mandate, however, Gov. Charlie Baker said he had no plans of reinstating one. Since the mandate was lifted in late May, vaccinated Massachusetts residents are only required to wear a mask in select places like public transit systems and health care facilities

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We asked Boston.com readers if they agreed with Gov. Baker’s hesitation to reinstate a mask mandate, and of the 1,752 readers who responded, 65% said they weren’t interested in seeing a return to masking restrictions. Thirty-five percent of readers said they’d welcome a mask mandate in Massachusetts.

“There should not be a mask mandate. If people want to wear them and they feel better, let them, but don’t force people who don’t want to,” said reader Nicole Precourt. “If a mask mandate comes back there will be A LOT of very angry people. If others are that worried and think masks work, let them wear them. But they don’t make the decisions for myself and my family.”

Many readers who oppose a mask mandate said they’ve accepted that the COVID-19 pandemic may be a permanent fixture of our lives.

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“People need to make their own decisions,” said Mariessa from Franklin. “The numbers are still small. We are never going to have zero cases and we need to learn to live with this as part of life.”

This spring as vaccination rates rose across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks unless they were in large crowds. On Tuesday the agency reversed course recommending that even vaccinated people should be wearing masks indoors.

Citing concerns about the Delta variant, several towns in Massachusetts — including Nantucket, Provincetown, and Cambridge — have already recommended residents wear masks regardless of vaccination status. 

Although they made up the minority opinion, those in favor of a statewide mask mandate felt very strongly that it was the best move for the health of themselves, their loved ones, and the greater Massachusetts community. 

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“I think a mask mandate in all indoor places should be reinstated. My husband and I are fully vaccinated, but still wear masks in all indoor spaces,” one reader said. “With the new Delta variant outbreaks and surges in Provincetown and Nantucket and increasing breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people, I think better safe than sorry.”

In addition to the mask mandate, we also asked readers what kinds of restrictions they thought should be in place as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. More than 450 readers on both sides of the issue shared their thoughts. Ahead, you’ll find a sampling of their responses. 

No restrictions needed

“None. The insanity has to end. If masks are reinstated, there is literally no end game here. We have a vaccine. It works like the flu shot and prevents severe outcomes but not mild infections. This has become an endemic, so we should all learn to live with the virus and stop panicking.”    

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“The state should be concentrated on deaths and hospitalizations and not merely cases. Thanks to vaccines with a huge uptake by one most vulnerable we need to adjust our thinking about infection rates. COVID is here to stay.  Personal choice based on personal risk assessment is what should be happening now.” — Holly Rose, Newburyport   

“I don’t think the number of cases matters. It only matters if people are hospitalized or dying. For me, people should protect themselves how they see fit as rational adults and not depend on the government to tell them what to do. Therefore I don’t support any additional mandates and defer to individual responsibility.” — Amanda C, Walpole  

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“Nothing. No restrictions. We did all that last year to help keep hospitals open. We will be fine. We won’t be able to save everyone, but we have options now and American citizens should be able to live their lives as THEY choose!!” — Andrea, Holden

“No restrictions. Vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Lockdowns and masks were not about getting the cases to zero, they were about reducing the burden on our healthcare system. If a new variant emerges that causes severe disease on the vaccinated or in children we can respond accordingly.” — Jeff, Framingham

Restrictions for the unvaccinated 

“Businesses, schools, and gathering places should require proof of vaccinations if appropriate depending on community spread. A pandemic of the unvaccinated should not negatively impact those who are unlikely to get very sick or die because they are vaccinated.” Nicole, Brookline

“The problem is the unvaccinated. I’d rather see a vaccine mandate or a vaccine passport. Or pay people for getting the vaccine. Or have a vaccine truck in every neighborhood with walk-up service. No more masks unless every other option is exhausted — it is oppressive and unfair (especially to children).”

“Significant fines for unvaccinated people who defy mask rules allowing only vaccinated people to not wear masks.” Allison, Woburn

“Only restrict the unvaccinated otherwise no one will ever bother getting vaccines or boosters ever again. Deaths are not rising — only cases. Vaccinated people should be allowed to be mask-free!”

“This is now the extreme illness of the unvaccinated. Yes, there are breakthrough cases, but these patients are not typically hospitalized. There are plenty of opportunities to get the vaccine. Towns are begging and bribing residents to get the vaccine. People are making choices now. Keep kids under 12 wearing masks in schools. Otherwise, give people the choice.”

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Yes to restrictions

“The indoor mask mandate is a minimum! There should be proof of vaccination for all large indoor events and even full stadium sports events like many European countries are requiring as well as indoor dining. It is not enough to watch hospitalization rates alone. We still don’t know the long-term consequences of mild COVID cases for vaccinated people and unvaccinated kids. We do know long COVID is a real and debilitating issue. Baker was slow to respond at the beginning of the pandemic and should know better than to do it again.” — Addie, Cambridge

“I really don’t like the government trying to manage our lives, however in this case public health and safety must take priority. I know local MA residents who think the vaccinations are not really necessary, and so if they’re not required to do so they will not get vaccinated. So not only should unvaccinated persons age 12 and above be required to wear a mask indoors and outdoors when they cannot socially distance, but employers and businesses should also be allowed to require everyone entering their premises to be vaccinated and require proof if requested. There needs to be much stronger incentives for people to get vaccinated.”

“A curfew of 10 p.m. if increased cases are causing hospitals to get overwhelmed with COVID cases and healthcare workers are having to struggle with the volume of patients hospitalized.” — Sheila, Cambridge

“Capacity restrictions should be reinstated for hotel conference rooms, hotel ballrooms, eating and drinking establishments, offices, health clubs, and many more places. Restrict to 40% of full capacity (rather than 25% or 50%) would be my estimate.”  Ariela Beck, Acton

“Either way, there should be masking indoors from now through the winter.  Don’t forget if you are fully vaccinated you can still get sick with COVID. I would say keep all businesses fully open but just require masks indoors. With COVID Delta, then Lambda variants circulating this fall and winter as things get colder, people will be indoors much more and without any indoor masking, the numbers will explode. So simple, indoors mask up until the global pandemic has ended.”

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

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