About two-thirds of Massachusetts residents between ages 12 and 19 are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, Governor Charlie Baker said Monday, in what he described as a hopeful sign that students can safely return to public school classrooms in coming weeks.
During a visit to a back-to-school vaccination clinic at Everett High School, Baker said he hoped the high rate of vaccine uptake in Massachusetts would be a bulwark against the extra-contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
He said about 5 million people in Massachusetts have gotten at least one shot so far, and that “people in Massachusetts have been incredibly good about getting a second dose if they get a first dose.”
“We’re looking forward to working with everybody to enhance and improve our performance on all of those measures,” the Republican governor said. “Ultimately we think vaccines are the best way to keep kids safe as well, and to keep our schools safe.”
Thousands of students in Massachusetts are returning to classrooms this week for the start of a third academic year tinted by the anxieties of the pandemic. Two of Massachusetts’ largest school districts, Springfield and Worcester, returned on Monday.
Boston Public Schools will reopen on Sept. 9, following the Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah holidays.
Vaccine clinics like the one in Everett on Monday have been among the many tools the Baker administration has encouraged districts to utilize to get more students vaccinated and to keep schools safe this fall.
Even the state’s universal masking mandate, which went into effect inside school buildings last week, will ultimately rely on a vaccination threshold to determine whether it’s safe for students or staff members to unmask.
Until Oct. 1, all students and staff — regardless of vaccination status — will be required to wear masks. But starting in October, schools that reach 80 percent of the student and staff body fully vaccinated are expected to be allowed to drop the mandate for vaccinated people; unvaccinated students will still need to mask.
The Baker administration had an about-face in recent weeks regarding mask mandates for schools, instituting one last week after weeks of only strongly recommending that unvaccinated people wear masks indoors.
Baker said he’s confident that the vaccination campaign will continue to make progress.