By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The Massachusetts Senate president is calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to change course and require face masks in school this fall. Sen. Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, said in a statement Friday that with cases on the rise due to the highly contagious Delta variant “we are not quite ready to return to our pre-pandemic ‘normal.'”

“Public health experts and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that universal masking in schools is an effective way to keep our vulnerable children and residents safe as we continue to fight this global pandemic,” Spilka said. “Parents, school staff and students seek clear, consistent direction as the school year starts, and they deserve to get it from the state. That’s why I am calling on the Baker Administration to require masks in school this fall.”

Per the latest state guidance, Massachusetts is not requiring face masks in schools, despite Centers For Disease Control recommendations to the contrary. The Baker Administration says vaccinated students should not have to wear masks, while “strongly” recommending that students in kindergarten through sixth grade wear masks in school, as well as any student who has not been vaccinated.

Spilka says a mask mandate is needed in schools until vaccines are approved for younger children.

“No one wants to go back to the dark early days of this public health crisis, and so we must do everything possible to keep people safe and our economy stable,” she said. “Wearing a mask around vulnerable populations, including unvaccinated children and others, is a small and simple action we can take to do this.”

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is also pushing for masks in schools, calling current state guidance “reckless.”

Baker’s office responded to Spilka on Friday, highlighting the state’s low rate of severe COVID cases. Only .05% of COVID cases have resulted in hospitalization.

“Massachusetts is faring significantly better in several key health metrics than the rest of the nation, allowing for only fully vaccinated students, in accordance with local officials’ determination, to attend school without a mask,” a spokesperson for the governor said. “The Administration believes given the progress made by the people of Massachusetts, all public buildings must be reopened, including all public schools with appropriate safety measures in place.” Staff