Baker: No plans to change COVID policies

Cites vaccine efficacy in reducing serious illness

ALTHOUGH COVID-19 CASE numbers are rising in Massachusetts and nationally, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that he does not intend to reinstate any statewide COVID-related rules.

“We’re not looking at changing any of our existing rules or policies,” Baker said, speaking at a press conference in Sandwich.

As of Wednesday, there were 457 new COVID-19 cases reported in Massachusetts, a sharp increase since mid-June when there were generally fewer than 100 cases per day. Experts have attributed the recent rise to an uptick in the Delta variant, which is both more contagious and more likely to break through the existing vaccines than prior iterations of the virus.

Baker spoke during a visit to Cape Cod, which has been the epicenter of recent spread in the state. At least 256 cases have now been tied to an outbreak in Provincetown, and local officials in Provincetown have started advising people to wear masks again indoors.

Baker said while he does not intend to reinstate any restrictions statewide, like shutdowns or mask mandates, “if communities believe they need to pursue strategies they believe are more effective and appropriate for them, they should do so, and that’s what Provincetown did.”

Baker stressed that the vaccines are working. “If you look at the number of people who are hospitalized who have been vaccinated it’s a very small number, not just here in the commonwealth but across the country,” he said. “The impact of COVID on those who have been vaccinated and those who aren’t is stark and profound.”

According to state data, there were 107 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, a far cry from the winter when there were consistently more than 2,000 patients hospitalized with the virus. The daily death rate of people with COVID-19 has generally been in the single digits since May, again far different than in the winter before people – particularly the more vulnerable elderly population – started getting vaccinated. Most deaths continue to be among older adults.

Baker said the fact that there are breakthrough cases “should not be surprising,” since no vaccine is 100 percent effective. But, he said, “The big question is what do those cases mean with respect to hospitalizations and people getting really sick.” With vaccines proving to be effective against hospitalization and death, Baker said, “There’s a big difference between cases when you have no one vaccinated and cases when you have 4.3 million people vaccinated.”

Baker urged anyone who is unvaccinated to get the shots, and noted that Massachusetts has continued to deliver 7,000 to 10,000 shots daily by using a locally-driven, targeted approach.

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that everyone in school over age 2 wear a mask when they return to in-person school this fall. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is currently planning to require all schools to open this fall and has not instituted any masking requirements.

Baker said he will continue to talk to education and health care experts but “We don’t have plans to change current policies with respect to school in the fall.”