Massachusetts Is Set to Issue a Mask Mandate in Schools
Gov. Charlie Baker has come under pressure from teachers’ unions, doctors, lawmakers and activists for not backing a mask mandate.
Massachusetts is set to issue a mandate for masks in schools, a reversal for the governor.
Under the current plan, nearly all public school students over age 5, regardless of vaccination status, will be expected to wear masks at school until at least October.Credit…Stephanie Zollshan/The Berkshire Eagle, via Associated Press
By Ellen Barry
Aug. 24, 2021, 5:13 p.m. ET
Massachusetts is preparing to introduce a mask mandate for the state’s public schools as early as Wednesday, in a reversal for Gov. Charlie Baker, who has vocally advocated local control of school masking policy.
Mr. Baker, a Republican in a deeply Democratic state, had come under pressure to make masks mandatory in schools, and a poll released last week suggested that 81 percent of Massachusetts voters support the idea.
The state education board on Tuesday voted 9 to 1 to give the education commissioner, Jeffrey Riley, the power to issue a mandate. Mr. Riley is expected to issue the mandate this week, establishing uniform requirements ahead of school openings.
Massachusetts has not joined the list of states — including New Jersey, Oregon and Washington — that require teachers to get the vaccine. According to a New York Times data tracker, 75 percent of Massachusetts’s population has received at least one dose, a higher rate than any state except Vermont.
Under the current plan, nearly all public school students over age 5, regardless of vaccination status, will be expected to wear masks inside Massachusetts school buildings until at least October, when state officials will allow individual schools to lift the mandate as long as 80 percent of staff and students are vaccinated. Unvaccinated people would be required to continue wearing masks.
Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, called the vote “a significant advancement toward keeping our communities safe.” The union, the state’s largest, voted on Aug. 1 in favor of a mask mandate in schools.