With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Massachusetts due to the delta variant, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that the real key to stemming the tide is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
"I think the most important thing we need to do is focus on getting people vaccinated," the governor said when asked about a statewide mask mandate. "The vaccines have proven that they work."
Toward that end, he pressed the Food and Drug Administration to give official approval of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which he said would go a long way toward convincing those still hesitant to get the vaccine to go out and get the shot.
"I would really like to see the federal government acknowledge that after 400 million doses, I would like to see them give them a final approval," Baker said. "I think there are a lot of organizations out there that are waiting for the federal government to take that final step, and I think it would make a big difference in how many of them think about the questions associated with vaccinations generally, and I think it would make a big difference to a lot of the people that we talk to with our door-knocking exercises and a lot of our community-based vaccine clinics."
Baker also said Thursday that the recent outbreak in Provincetown that involved vaccinated people contracting the delta variant showed just how well the vaccines work.
"I think in some respects, Provincetown was as big a test as you could possibly put a vaccine through," he said. "The significant number of people who were there were vaccinated, it was an enormous crowd, a three-day rainy weekend in Provincetown where everybody talked about the fact that it was a lot of close quarters in restaurants and bars and households. And yet, in a cluster with more than 1,000 people, only seven people were hospitalized, and one person died, and the person who died had a lot of complexities. And I think in some respects, the vaccines have proven their effectiveness, and we should do everything we can to encourage people to get vaccinated."
The report pushed the state's confirmed COVID-19 caseload to 684,836 since the start of the pandemic and its death toll to 17,761.
Massachusetts' COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, are far lower than they were several months ago, though some have been rising in recent weeks. While breakthrough cases are being reported, officials say most new cases, and especially serious infections, are in the unvaccinated.
Massachusetts' seven-day average of positive tests ticked down to 2.86% on Thursday. It was once above 30%, but had dropped under 0.5% until the delta variant began surging in the state.