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 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.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.”