Pressley Calls on Baker to Step Up Efforts to Reduce COVID Spread in Massachusetts and Save Lives

August 18, 2021
Press Release
Calls for Resumed Data Collection, Mask and Vaccine Mandates in Schools and Congregate Settings

Text of Letter (PDF)

BOSTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sent a letter to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker calling on him to take immediate action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in public schools and congregate settings across the Commonwealth. Rep. Pressley’s letter comes as COVID-19 cases—including the new delta variant—continue to spike statewide, endangering vaccinated and unvaccinated residents. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that every county in Massachusetts now exceeds the threshold that warrants masking in all indoor spaces.

“It is incumbent upon all of us in government and your administration to do all that we can to prevent further suffering, trauma and loss, which means recognizing the important roles of masks and vaccines in protecting vulnerable residents,” wrote Rep. Pressley in her letter. “In this moment, Massachusetts requires leadership that is guided by science and centers the communities most impacted.”

The ongoing pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to Massachusetts residents. The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been steadily rising over the past few weeks, and now every county in Massachusetts is at high or substantial risk of COVID-19 transmission. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 733,000 Massachusetts residents have contracted COVID-19 and more than 18,000 have died from the deadly disease.

“These numbers should serve as clear evidence that the Commonwealth’s current approach is inadequate in the face of the highly contagious delta variant and we must change course before it is too late,” Rep. Pressley continued.

In her letter, Rep. Pressley urged Governor Baker to take a series of necessary and commonsense steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, including:

  • Resuming comprehensive data collection on who is contracting COVID-19. The Baker administration stopped reporting all of the necessary demographic data, including hospitalizations, at the exact same time the delta variant began infecting residents. Rep. Pressley urged the Governor to adopt science-backed reporting guidelines for residents of all ages, including cases in schools;
  • Implementing a statewide school mask mandate that safeguards students, teachers, and communities from greater risk of COVID-19 infection. This would be in alignment with recent CDC guidance, recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and is supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association; and
  • Issuing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in high-risk settings such as hospitals, schools and prisons. The Governor recently issued a vaccine mandate for the state’s nursing homes, and there is growing support by educators and public health experts for requiring vaccination for all school personnel.  

In January, Rep. Pressley sent a letter to Governor Baker in which she wrote, “It is absolutely vital that policymakers at all levels of government heed the calls of the communities most impacted by this pandemic and the public health experts that are fighting this virus on the frontlines.”

“I meant those words then, and I mean them now,” she wrote in her letter today. “Reducing the spread of the coronavirus should be considered the greatest priority, and I look forward to partnering with you to accomplish this goal.”

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. 

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