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Wu says city won’t reinstate mask mandate

Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News
Wu says city won’t reinstate mask mandate
Mayor Michelle Wu says the Public Health Commission recommends mask use indoors, but does not require them. PHOTO: JOHN WILCOX, MAYOR’S OFFICE

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Monday the city would make no immediate changes to its current policy of recommending masks indoors despite an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re watching the numbers very carefully and at this point Boston’s Public Health Commission has recommended masks in indoor settings, but not required them,” said Mayor Wu, adding that people should take advantage of the free testing available across the city, or use at-home rapid tests when heading to large events.

“That information is incredibly helpful in stopping the spread and doing the part that each of us can do to make sure that we’re still recognizing the COVID-19 virus is still here,” she said.

Wu’s comments come as other municipalities have just begun urging residents to wear masks while indoors amid rising COVID-19 cases. The city of Worcester announced a mask advisory Friday. School districts in Cambridge, Arlington and Belmont have also recommended wearing masks inside schools.

Boston officially lifted its indoor mask mandate in March, citing a downward trend in cases. The city then began recommending masks indoors the following month.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows all but three of Massachusetts’ 14 counties are listed as having high COVID-19 community levels. At that level of transmission, the CDC recommends all people wear masks in indoor, public settings.

In Boston as of Monday, only one of the three key metrics guiding the city’s COVID-19 policies has ticked up past its threshold of concern. The community positivity rate stands at 10.8 percent – well over the 5 percent threshold.

Hospitalizations are at 173 per day, below the threshold of 200 per day. Occupied Adult non-surge ICU beds are at 89.4 percent, just below the threshold of five consecutive days above 95 percent.

Wu, who was elected and sworn in in November, experienced intense pushback for her COVID-19 safety policies including requiring vaccinations for all city workers and requiring proof of vaccination to enter the city’s indoor recreation spaces like gyms, theaters and restaurants. All but two of the policies were rescinded as COVID-19 cases trended downward earlier this year.

Masks are required in Boston Public Schools and Wu’s vaccination mandate for city workers is being litigated in state appeals court.

The mayor did not rule out reinstating the indoor mask mandate if cases continue to rise.

“We, unfortunately, will be living with this reality for some time and that means as a community and as a city government, we’re preparing every metric and policy so that we can be ready and adapt with the phase that we’re in as opposed to lurching from surge to surge,” Wu said.

“This virus is definitely still out in the community and we just want everyone to be vigilant.”

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Saraya Wintersmith covers Boston City Hall for GBH News.

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