Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka Wants Mandatory Masks In Schools

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker hasn’t made any pronouncement that would attempt to force public school children to wear masks in school this upcoming fall, but Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) would like to see it happen regardless of vaccination status.

Although Baker has said that he doesn’t plan on mandating masks in public schools in the 2021-2022 school year, Spilka says he should.

“Public health experts and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that universal masking in schools is an effective way to keep our vulnerable children and residents safe as we continue to fight this global pandemic. Parents, school staff ,and students seek clear, consistent direction as the school year starts, and they deserve to get it from the state,” Spilka said in a written statement Friday, August 6, according to State House News Service. “No one wants to go back to the dark early days of this public health crisis, and so we must do everything possible to keep people safe and our economy stable. Wearing a mask around vulnerable populations, including unvaccinated children and others, is a small and simple action we can take to do this.”

Previously, Spilka leaned toward a mask mandate in public schools this upcoming fall, but stopped short of calling for one. She said if coronavirus numbers worsened, then she would favor it.

“I believe if the numbers keep creeping up and the Delta variant is still as prominent or more prominent than it is now when the schools start [at the] end of August, beginning of September, I think we seriously need to think about having children who have not been vaccinated — whether they be under 12 [and] not able to be vaccinated yet or older but not vaccinated — to wear a mask,” Spilka said on July 26, according to State House News Service.

Between the time that Spilka made the two statements, the state’s coronavirus positive test rate jumped 31 percent, from 1.84 percent to 2.61 percent, according to State House News Service.

Spilka’s position is in line with the Massachusetts Teachers Association. The the state’s largest teachers union wants “the mandatory use of face coverings in public schools from preK through higher education as part of a multi-pronged strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19,” according to its web site. The teachers union released the statement Monday, August 2, four days before Spilka released her most recent statement.

Like Spilka, teachers union officials want to mandate masks for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

Governor Baker so far has a different approach. He favors local control over this issue.

“We fully expect cities and towns to make adjustments to do what’s right for their specific school districts,” Baker said last week, according to State House News Service.

Baker also reportedly noted that school districts in the state have varying vaccination rates and rates of coronavirus transmission, which he said suggests the decision on masks should be made at a local level. 


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