Lawmakers push back on DPH plan to end mask mandate in health care settings in MA

BOSTON — The co-chairs the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs are urging state public health officials to extend the mask mandate in health care settings.

The masking requirement is slated to expire on May 11, following Gov. Maura Healey’s decision to end the COVID-19 public health emergency on that date -- a move that aligns with the federal government’s action.

In an April 25 letter to Department of Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, Sen. Pat Jehlen of Somerville and Rep. Thomas Stanley of Waltham urged him to reconsider the state’s masking policy. Prolonging masking can protect the state’s most vulnerable residents and frontline workers “who are already in short supply,” the letter stated.

“We strongly believe that masking is an effective and relatively inexpensive protective measure to protect both the workforce and those being treated in hospitals, nursing facilities, and other medical offices,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are all aware of the devastation wrought by COVID-19 among older people, especially those residing in nursing facilities and other congregate care and congregate living sites along, with the caregivers employed there.”

DPH confirmed to the lawmakers that it received the letter but has not followed up since, a spokeswoman for Jehlen said Tuesday.

Jehlen and Stanley lamented that only 29 percent of Massachusetts residents have received the COVID-19 bivalent booster shot, according to DPH data as of April 17.

“Please extend the mask mandate in health care settings at least until a time when the rate of booster utilization increases to a higher level, and we can be more confident that frail older adults and other vulnerable residents will be more protected from contracting COVID-19 and other infectious diseases,” they wrote in the letter.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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