Mass. Health Experts Urge Indoor Masks on Heels of Gov. Charlie Baker's Mandate Denial

Leading health experts in Massachusetts are taking matters into their own hands in the face of the spreading Omicron variant, as the Massachusetts Medical Society released a recommendation on Tuesday urging residents to mask up as COVID-19 case numbers swell, Mass Live reported. The warning comes on the heels of state Governor Charlie Baker's refusal to issue a new statewide mask mandate for public spaces.

Society President Dr. Carole Allen called the numbers "an alarming upward trend" that is straining the state's medical resources. The group specifically called for face masks in all public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Baker, a Republican, declined to issue a new mandate, as states like California and New York have already done.

"There are no plans to bring back the statewide mask mandate," Baker said on Monday. "Keep in mind that we're in a very different place than we were in before. Five million people are fully vaccinated. A million and a half of those are boosted. Over 6 million people have at least one dose."

massachusetts masks charlie baker
The Massachusetts Medical Society released a recommendation urging residents to mask up as COVID-19 case numbers grow. The alert was issued after state Governor Charlie Baker refused to issue a new statewide mask mandate for public spaces. Above, Baker speaks at the public viewing of Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo at Veterans Memorial Stadium on September 14, 2021, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Michael M. Santiago

The same day as Baker's statement, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed 11,078 new cases in the state over the past weekend, with hospitalizations up to 1,355.

"Masking is a public health measure proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19," Allen wrote in an official statement. "Wearing masks while indoors is an effective and appropriate way to slow transmission of the disease, especially with the holiday and cold and flu seasons upon us. We must all work together to take steps to confront and stem what could be a continued rise in cases, hospitalizations, serious illness, and death."

Newsweek reached out to Baker's office for comment.

California's mask mandate goes into effect Wednesday and covers all public spaces. New York's mandate started Monday, but allowed venues the alternative of checking people for proof of vaccination. Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington have also announced new mask mandates as the Omicron variant continues to spread in the U.S.

Baker's statement on Monday was accompanied by the announcement that the Massachusetts state government would be sending 2 million free rapid-response COVID tests to low-income areas ahead of the holiday season.

"This massive distribution effort and the long-term bulk purchasing agreement will make a real difference here in the state," Baker said. "The most important element in this is about making rapid tests available on a broad scale to communities that have, in many cases, a lot of people who aren't going to be able to purchase these on our own, to make these tests available so they can test themselves before they go to gatherings or other large indoor events."