BOSTON (CBS) – In the days since the CDC announced new guidance recommending mask-wearing indoors regardless of vaccination status, Governor Charlie Baker has not announced what that means for Massachusetts.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 risk map, Barnstable, Bristol, and Suffolk counties are all considered to have “substantial” or more spread of COVID-19, meaning the indoor mask guidance for all people is recommended. As of Wednesday, Baker said he was still “processing,” calling a potential mask mandate a “tough decision.”
Out in Boston on Thursday, some people were already masking up again. “Slightly concerned for my safety and the safety of others,” Sherry Nguyen of Boston told WBZ-TV.
“I use it for protection, because I want to take care of myself and others,” another woman added.
Others never want to see the masks come back.
“It’s sad,” Sarah Toland of Newton, who is vaccinated, said. “It’s awful. We just finally got back to ‘I know what you look like’ and ‘you know what I look like’…it’s sad.”
As the state weighs a potential indoor mask mandate, epidemiologists are weighing in.
“We now have some data that seems to suggest that people who get infected after vaccination still can be contagious,” Dr. Mark Siedner of Mass General explained.
“So what does this mask mandate mean? It is not being done because the vaccines are not working. Actually, it has relatively little to do with vaccinated people. It has to do with everyone else. It has to do with young people who aren’t vaccinated, people who have chosen not to get vaccinated, and people who are immunosuppressed for whom the vaccines don’t work very well. Because if you are vaccinated and sitting next to them, even if you are not sick, if you are transmitting it to them, you are putting them at risk.”
Of those vaccinated in Massachusetts, .15% of them have had a breakthrough case of COVID and .009 percent have been hospitalized.
Siedner believes an indoor mask mandate in areas of high-spread right now makes sense scientifically.
“I think it would be useful,” he said. “We have seen an outbreak in cases on the Cape, we have seen cases going up in this part of Suffolk County. We are back at a place where the test positivity rates are back up. Everything is pointing towards this virus being disseminated in our community. And as long as there are people who are unvaccinated who are at risk of severe disease, when we are having an outbreak, we need all the powers that we have, all the tools that we have to stop that from happening.”
Even with a mask mandate in place Dr. Siedner explained that the vaccines are the only real answer to this outbreak, and that if more Americans had been vaccinated, it could’ve been avoided altogether.
“That’s what will get us through this. The mask mandate is a safety measure. The vaccine is a solution. That’s how we get out of this,” he explained.