Leading doctors in Massachusetts are now recommending that residents wear masks in all public indoor spaces regardless of whether they are vaccinated as a growing number of states, but so far not Massachusetts, return to the mask mandates that were ubiquitous earlier in the pandemic.
Dr. Carole Allen, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said Tuesday that the growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations point to "an alarming upward trend" that is straining the state's health care system.
The Department of Public Health on Monday reported 11,078 new cases from over the weekend, and hospitalizations from the virus climbed to 1,355.
"Masking is a public health measure proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wearing masks while indoors is an effective and appropriate way to slow transmission of the disease, especially with the holiday and cold and flu seasons upon us. We must all work together to take steps to confront and stem what could be a continued rise in cases, hospitalizations, serious illness, and death," Allen said in a statement.
The recommendation from the medical society comes a day after Gov. Charlie Baker said he had "no plans" to bring back the statewide mask mandate, noting that masks are still required in some places like health care settings and public transportation.
"Keep in mind that we're in a very different place than we were in before. Five million people are fully vaccinated. A million and a half of those are boosted. Over 6 million people have at least one dose," Baker said at a press conference, where he announced plans to send 2.1 million rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to 102 cities and towns for free distribution this holiday season.
State Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders will be among those testifying Thursday at a legislative oversight hearing on the state's ongoing pandemic response as a number of Democrats have also signaled interest in a return to universal masking.
California and New York are among the states that have already taken the step, with California's new statewide mask mandate going into effect on Wednesday and New York's beginning this week.
In the Empire State, the masking requirements do not apply to businesses that require proof-of-vaccination for entry, and the policy will be revisited on Jan. 15.
The medical society is the statewide professional association for physicians and medical students, supporting 25,000 members.