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Boston museums bring back indoor mask requirements

August 6, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Several Boston museums and other attractions are bringing back indoor mask requirements in line with updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention in response to a surge in cases caused by the coronavirus delta variant.

The Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the New England Aquarium are among the institutions that this week announced that starting Saturday they will require all visitors age 5 and older, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings indoors.

“In this time of increasing health risks, our commitment to one another is paramount, and we hope our visitors respect the members of our staff now in the position of enforcement,” the Museum of Fine Arts posted on social media.

The aquarium also requested understanding.

“Please be respectful to our staff if they ask you to comply with this policy. Through this policy, we are working to reduce transmission and keep each other safe. Visitors in violation of the mask policy will be asked to leave,” the aquarium said in a statement posted on its website.

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Suffolk County, which includes Boston, has a “substantial” COVID-19 transmission rate, according to the CDC.

Many institutions relaxed masking policies in May.

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UMASS MEMORIAL HEALTH MANDATES VACCINES

UMass Memorial Health is the latest Massachusetts hospital system to announce that it will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Worcester-based system in a memo this week said it expects workers to get a first dose by Nov. 1.

Dr. Eric Dickson, UMass Memorial Health’s president and CEO, addressed reservations about the vaccines.

“We’ve thoroughly reviewed the science behind the vaccines, are following guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and feel this is the best way to keep our caregivers and patients safe from this horrible disease that keeps getting stronger,” he said in the memo.

The system operates several hospitals and medical facilities in central Massachusetts.

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TOP DEMOCRAT URGES MASKING AT SCHOOLS

Democratic Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka is urging Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to require masks in school this fall.

Almost a million children will return to K-12 public schools next month, Spilka said. Of these, nearly half will be under 12 and ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Spilka added, pointing to concerns about the highly contagious delta variant.

“Universal masking in schools is an effective way to keep our vulnerable children and residents safe,” she said. “Parents, school staff and students seek clear, consistent direction as the school year starts, and they deserve to get it from the state. That’s why I am calling on the Baker Administration to require masks in school this fall.”

Earlier this week Baker said that while the state will recommend masks for unvaccinated students and staff, the final decision should be left to local school districts.

“I’m not going to get into making decisions that I believe, in many cases, ought to be driven, at the end of the day, by the folks at the local level who know those communities best,” Baker said Tuesday. “That said, it’s a strong recommendation for K through 6 that kids should wear masks because there is no vaccine available for K through 6.”

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NURSING HOMES

COVID-19 cases are again rising in Massachusetts nursing homes.

About a quarter of Massachusetts nursing homes have faced COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks, with most of the cases spread to residents from staff members, the Boston Globe reported Friday.

Most cases have been mild. About 89% of Massachusetts nursing home residents are fully vaccinated.

Baker this week mandated that staff working in long-term care facilities in the state must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 10.

In the past four weeks in Massachusetts, 57 facilities reported two or more cases among staff and residents, for a total of 170 cases — 88 among staff and 82 among residents, health department officials said, according to the Globe.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 1,100 Friday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by two.

The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,727 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to more than 678,500.

There were about 270 people reported hospitalized Friday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 60 in intensive care units.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

The average age of those who have died from COVID-19 was 74.

More than 4.3 million people in Massachusetts have been fully immunized against COVID-19.