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Baker: Mask Mandates Essential Even as Vaccines Distributed
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
06:28PM / Wednesday, March 03, 2021
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GLOUCESTER, Mass. — Hours before President Biden ridiculed "Neanderthal thinking" about removing mask mandates, Gov. Charlie Baker talked about the reasons why he has no intention of lifting Massachusetts' mandate any time soon.
On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order lifting that state's face covering mandate in the face of a pandemic that has claimed more than 44,000 lives in the Lone Star State.
Baker was asked at his Wednesday COVID-19 update whether he would follow Abbott's lead.
"One of the things the vaccine does is it prevents you from getting sick, which is great," Baker said. "One of the things no one knows at this point is whether, if you are in fact infected and you don't get sick and you don't show symptoms, even if you've been vaccinated are you still somebody who can carry it and give it to somebody else who's not vaccinated.
"That's being studied right now in a number of the countries who are a little bit ahead of the U.S. in terms of their population that's been vaccinated."
That is why the mask mandate is so important, Baker said.
"The mask mandate has nothing to do with whether or not the vaccine is effective," Baker said. "In fact, it's just the opposite. If you have a whole bunch of people who get vaccinated but could still carry the virus and theoretically could give it to somebody else but shows no signs, that puts people who haven't been vaccinated, or people who remain part of a vulnerable population that hasn't been vaccinated, at risk.
"I think the mask mandate, at least until we get some answers on whether people who have been vaccinated can actually pass this onto somebody else, is a perfectly reasonable and appropriate place for us to continue to operate."
Baker said the advent of vaccinations and declining infection rate is not a reason for Bay Staters to "let down their guard" around the novel coronavirus. Nor, he said, is his administration's decision starting this week to lift some of the restrictions it put into effect in the fall.
"Some of the decisions we made with respect to our guidance around here in Massachusetts was really simply going back to where we were in the fall," Baker said. "We left in place many of the criteria and the guideposts and the standards and the advisories that have been in place all along. And we left some of the ones we added in December in place, as well. It's still 90 minutes in a restaurant, six people and no more at a table."
Baker, who has spent the last 11 months preaching vigilance on issues like face covering and social distance, tried Wednesday to balance that against some of the more encouraging news of the last two months.
"What I would say is the more we do to serve vulnerable populations and take the folks who are most likely to get really sick, be hospitalized and die — the more we vaccinate those folks and create a certain level of additional safety for them, the more likely it will be that we won't see significant burdens on the health care system," Baker said. "We won't see significant numbers of people getting sick and dying — which is great.
"But, at the end of the day, this is still an incredibly contagious virus and people need to take it seriously until we get to the point where we've vaccinated a very significant portion of our population."
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