Keep masking on public transit if at at high risk for COVID-19

COVID

“We must respect and avoid stigmatizing anyone who chooses to continue to wear a mask to protect their health and the health of others.”

A mask wearing passenger has plenty of empty seats around them as they ride an MBTA trolley on Commonwealth Avenue. Jim Davis / The Boston Globe, File

The ultimate fate of the nation’s federal mask mandate for public transit remains up in the air, as the Justice Department appeals the ruling out of Florida that reversed the rules for face coverings. 

But in the meantime, as airlines and local transit agencies — including the MBTA and Massport — lift mask mandates, the Massachusetts Medical Society issued its own advice and guidance for the public to consider. 

Dr. Carole Allen, president of the group, said in a statement Thursday that she and her colleagues at the society “strongly recommend” all individuals who are either at high risk for COVID-19 or living with a person who is at increased risk keep masking in all indoor settings, including public transportation, regardless of their vaccination status. 

“Decisions informed by data are key to mitigating the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “With the BA.2 Omicron subvariant continuing to spread across Massachusetts, and other indicators of community spread rising, the Medical Society recommends older adults, individuals who are not up-to-date on vaccines, who have underlying conditions, or are immunocompromised, and children too young to be vaccinated (and their parents) continue to mask on public transit and other indoor public places.

“We must respect and avoid stigmatizing anyone who chooses to continue to wear a mask to protect their health and the health of others,” Allen said.

Vaccines and boosters, Allen noted, remain the “most effective tools to protect oneself and one’s close contacts against COVID-19 and are proven to reduce hospitalizations and death.”

Public health officials in Boston are also urging the public to take steps to protect against COVID-19 as the city sees cases climb.

“With COVID-19 cases rising, we are urging all Bostonians to take extra precautions to protect yourselves, your family, and our community,” Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said in a statement on Thursday.

Community positivity in Boston has reached 6.9%, up from being as low as 2.2% in early March, according to the BPHC. In the last two weeks alone, the city has seen a 65% increase in COVID-19 cases.

The commission is entreating the public to mask indoors in crowded public spaces, get tested before attending large indoor gatherings or visiting individuals who are at high risk for COVID-19, and ensure you are up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

Anyone who is feeling sick or who has been exposed to COVID-19 should also get tested, the commission said.

“These precautions are how we protect the progress we’ve made in our community,” Ojikutu said.

Here’s who the Mass. Medical Society says should keep masking on public transit

Christin Hakim

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