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Baker says he plans no changes in COVID-19 policies amid a rise in cases

Governor Charlie Baker.
Governor Charlie Baker.Steven Senne/Associated Press

As COVID-19 cases begin to tick up again in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday that he has no plans to reinstate statewide restrictions. But he left the door open for local officials to set limits on their own communities should they consider it necessary.

“We’re not looking at changing any of our existing rules or policies,” he said. “We have a set of statewide standards and they’re based on what we see on a statewide basis. And if communities believe they need to pursue strategies that are more effective and appropriate to them, then they should do so.”

Speaking at an event on Cape Cod — which is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, many among people who were vaccinated — Baker said the state is in a good position relative to the rest of the country and that he remains encouraged by the thousands of vaccines being administered in Massachusetts every day.

Baker boasted that Massachusetts has one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates and said an uptick in cases is not as concerning as it would have been earlier this year.

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While the COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States are highly effective, it is still possible for fully vaccinated people to contract the virus. However, so-called breakthrough cases are overwhelmingly less likely to lead to hospitalization or death.

“The difference between the impact of COVID on those that are vaccinated and those who aren’t is stark and profound,” Baker said. He said 80 percent of Massachusetts adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine and the state continues to administer between 7,000 and 10,000 doses per day.

Baker rescinded the vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions in May and June after millions of Mass. residents received a vaccine and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dramatically eased mask guidance for fully vaccinated people.

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But since then, a worrying rise in COVID-19 cases — the vast majority of them tied to a new Delta variant of the virus — has taken place across the country, conjuring breakthrough infections in vaccinated people and proving life-threatening and deadly to the unvaccinated. The CDC said this week that 83 percent of new cases are tied to the Delta variant.

The surge has led some officials to reinstate restrictions and issue new guidance.

In Provincetown, a cluster of cases prompted town officials to issue a new mask advisory, urging even vaccinated people to wear a mask indoors when social distancing isn’t possible. And Los Angeles County announced it will revive an indoor mask mandate, citing the rising case counts and hospitalizations tied to the Delta variant.

“What’s got to be the rule of thumb here is that people make decisions based on the current state of play with respect to the virus in their state, and we’re in a very different place than most of the country,” Baker said.

Even as cases begin to rise again after a low earlier this summer, Massachusetts and its highly vaccinated population are in better shape than much of the nation.

The average proportion of tests returning positive results here, about 1 percent, is a tiny fraction of the figure in less vaccinated states, like Missouri, where it tops 17 percent, and Louisiana, where it has crested 18 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic. And Massachusetts case counts, even as they begin to grow, are nowhere near as high as they were during the pandemic’s worst days in the winter.

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Emma Platoff can be reached at emma.platoff@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emmaplatoff. Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.