BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker did the right thing by requiring vaccines for state employees and proposing a statewide mask mandate for students and teachers in K-12 schools until COVID-19 vaccination rates increase among eligible students, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said Monday.
Healey said she took a similar step in the AG’s office by also requiring vaccines.
“I’m glad the governor took the step last week to require vaccines for state employees. It’s the right move. It’s something I did a few weeks ago,” Healey said Monday during an interview on GBH News. “In terms of the legality, it’s absolutely legal in my view.”
Healey made the comments as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s gave full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s going to help us to get back to where we need to be,” she said. “Everybody wants to be back to business as usual and to be able to come and go about freely.”
Healey, a Democrat, also praised Baker, a Republican, for seeking a statewide mask mandate in schools.
Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said Friday he plans to ask the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this week to grant him authority to require masks in public schools through Oct. 1.
The mandate would apply inside schools for children 5 and older. Students with certain medical conditions or behavioral needs would be exempt.
After Oct. 1, middle and high schools with high enough vaccination rates would be allowed to lift mask requirements for inoculated students and staff. At least 80% of a school’s students and employees would need to be vaccinated to make the change.
The move came after Baker initially resisted calls for a statewide school mask mandate.
Healey said the school mask mandate is particularly important given that students under 12 are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine shot.
“We’re just not in a place where kids are able to get the vaccine, so again it’s about protecting their health, protecting their well-being,” Healey said. “I’m sure our students do not want to go back to remote learning. I’m glad that the governor has sought guidance on this and the administration appears to be changing course.”
Baker has yet to say whether he plans to seek a third term next year. Healey is also seen as a potential candidate for governor — and a rival to Baker — but hasn’t said if she’ll run for the top office.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 3,300 over the weekend while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by four.
The new numbers from Friday to Sunday pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,809 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to nearly 698,000.
There were about 530 people reported hospitalized Monday with confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 140 in intensive care units.
The average age of those who have died from COVID-19 was 75.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
More than 4.4 million people in Massachusetts have been fully immunized against COVID-19.