December 21, 2021
Pressley Urges Baker to Reinstate Indoor Mask Mandate, Implement Other Lifesaving Measures Amid COVID Surge
“The Commonwealth can and must do more to ensure our most vulnerable communities are protected.”
BOSTON, MA – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker urging him to reinstate a statewide indoor mask mandate and implement a series of lifesaving measures to mitigate the ongoing spread of the coronavirus in Massachusetts. The Congresswoman’s letter comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and the ongoing threat of the new and more contagious Omicron variant.
“The Commonwealth has reached the grim milestone of more than one million cases and nearly 20,000 deaths. Communities in my district— the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District – continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the economic crisis that it has wrought,” Rep. Pressley wrote in her letter. “As we continue to experience a winter surge and are now faced with the new threat of the even more contagious Omicron variant, it is incumbent upon policymakers, at all levels of government, to act aggressively to center the public health and keep our collective constituents safe and healthy.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every county across Massachusetts is experiencing high rates of transmission and experts warn that the upcoming holiday gatherings and travel will likely exacerbate these spikes. Furthermore, initial data and analysis from the CDC show that the newly mutated Omicron variant is more contagious and could spread more quickly than the original COVID-19 virus.
In her letter, Rep. Pressley called for a data-driven and holistic statewide plan to combat this ongoing pandemic and urged the Governor to seriously consider the Massachusetts COVID-19 Action Plan put forward public health experts and community leaders.
Specifically, Rep. Pressley called on the Governor to:
- Reinstate a statewide, universal indoor mask mandate. Public health experts note that masks remain simple and effective tools for limiting COVID spread, and a universal indoor mask policy is critical to any statewide plan.
- Support community-led efforts to increase vaccination rates and access to rapid tests. Rep. Pressley urged the Governor to increase support for mobile vaccination clinics and partnerships with community health centers, improve access to free and accessible high-quality testing, and dispel any fear and misinformation about the COVID vaccines.
- Step up efforts to prevent COVID transmission among frontline workers and in high-risk settings. Rep. Pressley called for stronger safety and distancing protocols in workplaces and schools, an extension of the statewide school mask policy, dedicated resources and staffing capacity for school-based vaccination centers, testing and contact tracing efforts and flexibility to allow for remote learning options when necessary and advised by public health experts.
- Continue publishing comprehensive, disaggregated data on vaccination rates and COVID infection, including breakthrough cases. This ongoing and frequently published data will help the Commonwealth target resources to hardest-hit communities and respond to outbreaks in real time.
“In this moment, our shared constituents deserve bold leadership and evidence-based policies that will mitigate COVID-19 transmission and save lives,” Rep. Pressley continued. “I strongly urge you to heed the calls of the public health experts and the hundreds of community-based organizations that have informed the COVID-19 Action Plan and enact a statewide plan that will keep our families and communities safe.”
In August, Rep. Pressley wrote to Governor Baker calling on him to take immediate action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in public schools and congregate settings across the Commonwealth.
From the onset of the pandemic, Congresswoman Pressley has led efforts in Congress to ensure an equitable response to the pandemic that addresses existing racial disparities and vulnerable communities in the United States.
- In April 2020, she and Senator Warren led their colleagues in introducing the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act, legislation to require the federal government to collect and publicly release racial and other demographic data on COVID-19. The bill also would establish an inter-agency commission to make recommendations in real time on improving data collection and transparency and responding equitably to this crisis. Aspects of the legislation were included in an COVID-19 relief package signed into law later that month.
- In April 2020, Rep. Pressley urged Governor Baker to rescind the Commonwealth’s proposed Crisis of Care Standards that would have disproportionately harmed Black and Brown communities and the disability community.
- In March 2020, Pressley urged HHS to collect racial and ethnic demographic data on testing and treatment for COVID-19 to identify and address racial disparities.
- In June 2020, she introduced the Dismantle Mass Incarceration for Public Health Act with Reps. Tlaib (MI-13) and Barbara Lee (CA-13) to require decarceration to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails.
- Congresswoman Pressley also sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calling on the agency to immediately release racial and ethnic data of Medicare beneficiaries who are tested or hospitalized for COVID-19.
- Congresswoman Pressley has also written to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking for HHS’s report on the administration’s efforts to address racial disparities in health care access and outcomes, as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- At the request of Congresswoman Pressley, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to investigate how COVID-19 relief funds have been distributed to disproportionately affected communities.
- In January 2021, Rep. Pressley sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker calling on him to center the health and safety of Black and Brown communities in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response and ongoing vaccination deployment plans.
- In February 2021, Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren, and Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) reintroduced the COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act, bicameral legislation that would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the United States Marshals Service, and state governments to collect and publicly report detailed statistics about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccinations in federal, state, and local correctional facilities.
- In August 2021, Rep. Pressley sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker calling on him to enact mask and vaccine mandates in schools and other congregate settings.