Massachusetts residents should wear masks indoors, according to guidance from the state's oldest medical association, especially during holiday gatherings.
The Massachusetts Medical Society made the statement Tuesday, as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge through the state and region.
“Masking is a public health measure proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19," the society said in a statement. "Wearing masks while indoors is an effective and appropriate way to slow transmission of the disease, especially with the holiday and cold and flu seasons upon us. We must all work together to take steps to confront and stem what could be a continued rise in cases, hospitalizations, serious illness, and death.”
The announcement comes on the heels of a different determination from Gov. Charlie Baker, who said Monday he "had no plans" to reinstitute a statewide mask mandate. The lack of statewide edict has left residents puzzling together the patchwork decisions of local boards of health, with neighboring towns often enforcing different rules.
Cases of COVID-19 spiked post-Thanksgiving — much as they did last year — and the number of people hospitalized with the illness continues to swell. There are fewer deaths reported compared to the same period last year, however.
And unlike last year, more than 70% of Massachusetts residents have been fully vaccinated, and more than a million residents have opted to receive an additional booster shot. While there have been breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among the vaccinated, most of those people that required hospitalization have not been inoculated.
Baker on Monday announced a plan to send more than 2 million COVID-19 rapid at-home tests to cities and towns with the most need. Baker said he hoped those tests, which were distributed to the 102 Massachusetts communities with the highest percentages of families living in poverty would be used by residents before they make decisions around holiday gatherings.