So, as of next Friday, mask requirements are back for indoor spaces in Boston.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced the new requirement Friday morning, saying the move was necessitated by, among other factors, increases in the number of city residents testing positive for COVID-19.
The decision, which was a good move, came after Janey had taken a considerable amount of heat for not acting decisively enough to address the pandemic.
Just Wednesday, City Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell wrote an opinion piece in the Globe calling on Janey to enact a raft of new measures, a mask mandate among them. Without mentioning Janey by name, Campbell made it clear that the acting mayor wasn’t doing enough. And she was right — it’s not enough to keep politely urging people to get vaccinated.
The new mask mandate won’t be universally cheered. For restaurants, in particular, it offers patrons a reason to think twice about heading out to eat. A mask mandate also raises the question of whether a return to partial occupancy limits can be far behind. I feel for restaurant owners and their employees.
But as the Delta variant continues to teach us that this pandemic is nowhere near over, it’s heartening to see elected officials — even under pressure — begin to shed some of their timidity about doing all they can do to address the plague.
Governor Charlie Baker genuinely surprised me this week with his edict that state workers will either have to get vaccinated by October or get fired.
It’s not clear whether this policy will stick. The head of the MBTA’s largest union has already said that this will have to be bargained, and they won’t be the last union to make that claim.
“By no means are we agreeing to these terms without negotiation and will continue to fight on your behalf,” Jim Evers, president of Carmen’s Union, Local 589, wrote on the union’s website. “Throughout this pandemic, we have played an essential role in transporting frontline workers . . . throughout the state to their jobs.”
It’s true that MBTA employees have been heroes in this pandemic. But they shouldn’t make themselves an obstacle to bringing this virus to its knees.
If Evers really cares about his members — which no doubt he does — he should stop posturing and urge them to get vaccinated.
Because we have truly reached the point in this pandemic where half-measures will avail us nothing. His unvaccinated union members should be vaccinated. Period.
Janey has been dragged — over the course of the worst two weeks of her mayoral campaign — from a terrible, defensive position on attacking COVID to something slightly less hopeless. Still, she is showing little of Campbell’s grasp of the urgency of this moment.
As Campbell wrote, the city should be requiring proof of vaccination in restaurants, bars, and gyms, and making sure the Boston Public Schools are doing everything in their power to open safely — especially the elementary schools, whose students are mostly too young to get vaccinated.
At this point, Janey is still taking less than half the action she has the authority to take.
What is she waiting for?
Here’s one sure sign that government is acting too slowly. Earlier this week, a large group of Boston-area theaters announced that they will require vaccinations or negative COVID tests for audience members, staff, and cast members, and will require audience members to wear masks as well. (The Boch Center will not force vaccinated audience members to wear masks.)
That is a great idea that promises to allow live entertainment to resume, while keeping everyone safe. To their credit, the theater operators didn’t wait for a government edict to do the right thing.
No one wants our world to close up again; all of us want our normal lives back. But the path to normal — a word that feels foreign now — is going to require bold decisions and big steps.
A mask mandate is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Acting Mayor Janey must keep going.