Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday again defended his administration’s decision to issue an advisory recommending mask usage in indoor public spaces, rather than a hard mandate requiring face coverings.
“We have been very clear about the importance of masks in certain settings, particularly involving vulnerable populations,” Baker said during his regular appearance on “Boston Public Radio” on GBH. “We have mask mandates in nursing homes. We have mandates in place in assisted living facilities. We have mandates in place in congregate care. ... And we have mandates in place in school.”
Baker spoke to the program one day after he and his leadership team said residents are now advised to wear masks in indoor public spaces, the National Guard is being activated to help hospitals, and hospitals must delay elective procedures that will result in admissions as Massachusetts continues to grapple with a COVID-19 surge now fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
During the radio call Wednesday, Baker cited the state’s high vaccination numbers as one factor in the decision to forgo a statewide mask mandate.
“Now that we have 5 million people in Massachusetts who are vaccinated and almost 2 million people who are boosted, and we have rapid tests, [we should] recognize and understand that our strategy at this point is sort of layered and multidimensional,” Baker told GBH.
He also stressed the importance of rapid tests in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. The state said earlier this month that it was distributing 2.1 million free rapid tests to various communities, but the Globe reported Tuesday that a recent search for rapid tests in Metro Boston revealed many local pharmacies boasted nothing but empty shelves and apologetic signs.
Baker told GBH Wednesday that the importance of rapid tests was “why I was banging away on the Feds [to deliver tests] and why we set this contract up and got commitments from manufacturers that they would be able to support cities and towns ordering, among them, millions of these things and distributing them in their communities around the Commonwealth.”
Baker also decried the group of protesters who showed up at Boston City Hall Monday to loudly voice their opposition, via chants and signs, to Mayor Michelle Wu’s announcement that starting Jan. 15, patrons of certain indoor businesses will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter. Speakers at Wu’s briefing at times had to raise their voices to compete with the din of the protesters.
“I found that whole thing not helpful at all, in any way,” Baker told GBH. referring to the City Hall demonstrators. “It doesn’t offer solutions, it’s not constructive, and it doesn’t help people sort of get from where we are to where we need to go.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.