Governor Baker Defends COVID-19 Virus Approach Ahead Of School Openings

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — The governor defended Wednesday his administration's approach to dealing with COVID-19 in schools this fall as a group of medical professionals and community organizers calls on the state to set guidelines for mask mandates and student isolation.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity organized a press event this week to call on the state to do more to prepare for a possible COVID-19 rebound this fall, including by requiring students or workers who contract COVID to isolate for 10 days or until they no longer test positive on a rapid test and being ready to quickly impose mask mandates early in any surge.

"Well, most of that's not consistent with a lot of the federal guidance that we've gotten and certainly not consistent with a lot of the international guidance either. I think the guidance that we have out is about where we should be at this point in time," Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday when asked about the calls. His administration last week told schools it "is not recommending universal mask requirements, surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals, contact tracing, or test-to-stay testing in schools" for the upcoming academic year.

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Most people in Massachusetts are vaccinated against the coronavirus and Baker pointed to the "very effective treatments that have been proven for COVID at this point" and the "millions and millions of tests" that his administration has made available to municipalities and school districts to use as they see fit. He said "there are very few people who believe at this point that isolation strategies make sense."

"They don't make sense from a public health point of view and they certainly don't make sense from the point of view of the educational and sort of emotional development of kids," the governor said. "I mean, a lot of people would say that the hit that kids took because of some of those policies early on during the pandemic, they're still paying for themselves and will be paying for for a long time going forward."

Massachusetts recorded 8,224 COVID-19 cases and a seven-day hospitalization average of 569 patients for the week ending Aug. 18 -- higher than the 8,112 cases and average of 383 patients during the week ending Aug. 18, 2021 and the 1,817 cases and 183 average hospitalizations the week ending Aug. 18, 2020, Boston University School of Public Health professor Jonathan Levy said during Monday's Coalition for Health Equity event.

Written by Colin A. Young/SHNS

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