Massachusetts health officials are now advising some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks when inside places that are not their homes.
The updated state guidance released Friday applies to people who are fully vaccinated and are "at risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition." Vaccinated people who live with those who have a weakened immune system or are unvaccinated are also advised to mask up indoors.
That includes anyone who lives with children under 12, who are not yet authorized to get any of the COVID vaccines.
In a statement, state Department of Public Health officials said the advisory comes in light of updated guidance released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 27.
The statement reads in part:
The updated CDC guidance continues to state that individuals who are fully vaccinated may, as a general matter, resume many of the activities that they engaged in prior to the pandemic without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where otherwise required by federal, state, or local laws, rules or regulations.
In response to the recent spread of the Delta variant, however, the CDC’s updated guidance does recommend that even fully vaccinated persons wear masks or face coverings when indoors if other risk factors are present.
At a press conference Friday in Roxbury to promote vaccinations for children 12 and older, Gov. Charlie Baker discussed the state's new advice on coronavirus precautions for the vaccinated, stressing the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in the state.
"This new guidance was developed to be as simple and as straightforward as possible, and we also tailored it to Massachusetts," Baker said. "... The vaccines work, and we're going to continue to do everything we can to make sure that everyone who wants one can get one and can get one easily."
Repeating the new guidance, Baker said that those who have or live with people with underlying health conditions should "take greater precautions" to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus.
The new state guidance stops short of requiring vaccinated people to wear masks in areas with significant coronavirus transmission as recommended by the CDC. There are several Massachusetts counties that meet the CDC definition of "substantial" or high transmission.
Also Friday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said it and DPH "strongly recommend that all students in kindergarten through grade 6 wear masks when indoors, except students who cannot do so due to medical conditions or behavioral needs" and that "schools allow vaccinated students to remain unmasked."
At earlier points in the coronavirus pandemic, Massachusetts has mandated that everyone wear masks or face coverings inside nearly all businesses and other public places. The state ended its mandatory mask policy in late May.
After that change, state officials and many businesses urged residents who are unvaccinated to continue wearing masks in public.
Currently, the state still requires people entering health care facilities and those using public transportation and ride-hailing services to wear face coverings. That requirement will remain in effect.
In updating their guidance, state officials continued to urge residents to get vaccinated.
"COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and every individual who is eligible and either works, studies or resides in Massachusetts is advised to get vaccinated," the advisory stated.
This article was originally published on July 30, 2021.