Coronavirus

Mass. Medical Society and Academy of Family Physicians call on Charlie Baker to require masks in schools

“It is imperative that Massachusetts teachers, staff, students, and visitors start this school year with uniform masking requirements."

A student retrieved items from her locker at the Horace Mann School in Salem. Salem has implemented universal masking mandates. John Tlumacki/ The Boston Globe

Two medical associations in Massachusetts are urging Gov. Charlie Baker to mandate indoor mask use in school buildings this fall, joining growing pressure on the Republican lawmaker to take action before the academic year starts.

masks in schools

In a joint statement Tuesday, the Massachusetts Medical Society and Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians said they “strongly recommend” that Baker require masks indoors for anyone learning in, working in, or visiting schools — regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

“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,” the organizations wrote. “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.”

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The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education lifted mask requirements for vaccinated students on May 29, and currently, it is not requiring the use of masks in school buildings this fall, though they are “strongly recommending” that students in kindergarten through sixth grade wear face coverings when indoors. State education and public health officials are also strongly recommending any unvaccinated staff, across all grades, and unvaccinated students in grades 7 and up wear masks indoors.

In recent weeks, a growing number of state leaders, as well as members of Congress, have issued statements calling on Baker to require the use of masks in school buildings. 

Read the full statement issued by Dr. Carole E. Allen, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and Dr. Julie Johnston, president of the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians, below:

The physicians of the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians strongly recommend that Gov. Baker require masking while indoors for all who learn in, work in, or visit schools – regardless of vaccination status – as the Commonwealth prepares to return to in-person learning in the coming weeks.

The Massachusetts Medical Society believes that safe, in-person schooling is paramount to promoting the optimal health of our children. We support all appropriate public health measures to best achieve this aim for the children of the Commonwealth.

Education plays a pivotal role in children’s mental, physical and emotional development and wellbeing, and we must balance safety and a priority to return to full-time, in-person learning with as little disruption as possible.

Masking is a public health measure proven to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and decreasing transmission is critically important now as data have shown an increase in the number of children and adults who have contracted the easily transmissible delta variant of the virus.

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.

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.

The Medical Society will continue to work with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and closely monitor data and trends related to the virus that will shape future guidance.

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