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'Big Decision': Baker Still Reviewing New CDC Mask Guidance, Says Massachusetts In 'Much Better Position' Than Other States

GLOUCESTER (CBS) -- Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday he's still reviewing new Centers For Disease Control guidance recommending that even fully vaccinated people use face masks indoors in areas where COVID transmission is substantial or high. He said it's a "big decision" and would have more to say at a later date.

Back in May, the CDC said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks. But that position has changed due to the highly contagious Delta variant, which research has shown can also be spread by vaccinated people in some cases.

Reporters asked Baker at an environmental infrastructure event in Gloucester if the state mask mandate that was lifted in May will be returning. He said his administration is "figuring out what makes the most sense for our particular state."

"We'll have something to say, but we're going to process this," he said. "This is a big decision."

The governor said Massachusetts "is in a much better position than the vast majority of states in this country" when it comes to COVID. He said the state has the second-highest rate of vaccinations and second-lowest rate of coronavirus hospitalizations.

"Those things factor into how we make these decision, and they should," Baker said. "Because the vaccines work."

According to a map of COVID tracking data on the CDC's website, Suffolk County, Bristol County, Cape Cod and the Islands are among the Massachusetts areas with substantial or high transmission.

massachusetts hot spots map
(WBZ-TV graphic)

Baker said he's not looking at bringing back travel restrictions of any kind, despite a recent cluster of more than 800 total COVID cases linked to Provincetown.

He also said he is "considering" the new CDC recommendation to have everyone in K-12 schools wear face masks, regardless of vaccination status. Currently, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education plans to drop all masks and social distancing requirements for Massachusetts schools in the fall.

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders told reporters after an event in Malden earlier in the day that Baker "will be announcing what we're going to be doing" later this week, or Monday at the latest.

"We're reviewing it. It's a shift in the CDC guidelines," Sudders said. "So we want to make sure we roll it out in a way that makes sense for everybody in Massachusetts."


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