BOSTON

Wu Announces Boston Won't Lift School Mask Mandate Later This Month

The statewide mandate is set to end on Feb. 28

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A day after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he'll be lifting the mask mandate for schools at the end of this month, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced the city's schools will be taking some more time before doing the same.

The statewide mandate ends on Feb. 28, Baker announced Wednesday, but districts will still be able to establish their own requirements as they deem fit.

Boston will be one of those districts that keeps its mask requirement in place, Wu said.

“We won’t be lifting our mask mandate on the 28th in Boston Public Schools," she said Wednesday morning. “We want to see a couple weeks of downward trend before lifting that mask mandate.”

No date was given on when the mask mandate could be lifted in Boston schools.

Wu argued that urban schools face additional challenges that more suburban schools might not be dealing with in making a decision on face coverings.

"Not only is it tighter physical space, because our classrooms can be quite crowded, but there are larger vaccination gaps among our youngest students, especially," Wu said.

The decision to lift the statewide mandate at the end of the month was made in consultation with infectious disease physicians, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and other medical experts, officials said Wednesday.

“Given the extremely low risk to young people, the widespread availability and the proven effectiveness of vaccines, and the distribution of accurate test protocols, and tests, it’s time to give our kids a sense of normalcy and lift the mask mandate on a statewide basis for schools,” Baker said at a news conference.

Several other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, have also announced decisions to rescind their school mask requirements in recent days.

A day after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he'll be lifting the mask mandate for schools at the end of this month, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced the city's schools will be taking some more time before doing the same.

Former Boston Public Schools teacher and City Council Public Health Chair Erin Murphy disagrees with Wu's decision to wait.

"I think right now, we feel like, I do see the data showing that it's safe to lift the mask mandate," Murphy said.

Murphy has called a public hearing on this issue to hear from public health experts and try to set tangible guidelines for when masks are needed in schools and when they're not.

"Now, here we are in February, in a much better place data-wise with coronavirus and numbers going down," Murphy said. "Shouldn't we be going in the opposite direction, not in a more restrictive, and if we are, then please explain why."

Some parents said they were ready for their children to ditch masks.

"I have an 8-year-old daughter, and we have to ask her to wear masks, and kids don't like to wear masks," said one father named Rob.

Others are glad Boston is waiting to lift its mask mandate.

"I'm glad that they're not going to take them off, I was going to send my kids with masks anyway," said another parent named Michelle.

Massachusetts implemented the mask requirement in August to stem the spread of the coronavirus in schools, and it was extended several times, most recently in early January when the highly contagious omicron variant was surging.

More than 40 schools statewide already have been given permission to lift mask mandates after reaching an 80% vaccination threshold among staff and students.

Masks will still be required on school buses, per federal regulations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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