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Worcester announces indoor face covering mandate

September 17, 2021 GMT

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — The second largest city in Massachusetts will require everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces and will also require municipal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the city manager announced Friday.

The mask mandate that applies to common areas takes effect Monday, Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said.

The order applies to everyone regardless of vaccination status, except for those who have a medical exemption.

The city worker vaccination requirement takes effect Nov. 1. Unvaccinated workers will be subjected to weekly testing.

“Getting vaccinated and wearing masks is our best defense against this enemy,” he said.

The city has about 7,300 employees.

Worcester joins several other Massachusetts communities with indoor mask mandates, including Boston and Springfield.

They have been put in place in response to the continued spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.

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SCHOOL CASES

More than 1,400 students and employees at Massachusetts schools have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the school year, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The first weekly report of the school year, which will be released every Thursday, said 1,230 students and 190 staff have tested positive for the coronavirus.

There are about 920,000 students and 140,000 school staff statewide.

Education leaders said a rise in the number of cases was expected as students returned to school full-time en masse for the first time in more than a year.

The Springfield schools had the most student cases with 78 cases. There were 21 cases reported in Boston’s schools.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 2,000 Friday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 16.

The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 18,062 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to more than 738,000.

There were more than 700 people reported hospitalized Friday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 170 in intensive care units.

The average age of those who have died from COVID-19 was 75.

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

More than 4.5 million people in Massachusetts have been fully immunized against COVID-19. ___

ANTI-VACCINE RALLY

Hundreds of protesters, almost none wearing masks, gathered outside the Massachusetts Statehouse on Friday to voice their opposition to Gov. Charlie Baker’s mandate that tens of thousands of state workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the middle of October or risk their jobs.

The speakers at the afternoon event called the governor’s mandate unconstitutional.

Several people at the rally wore T-shirts that read “Massachusetts correction officers say no to mandatory vaccines,” according to The Boston Globe.

Others in the crowd carried American flags and signs with messages like, “We will not comply,” “I do not consent,” and “My body my choice.”

Baker’s mandate applies to about 42,000 executive department employees and 2,000 contractors for executive department agencies, whether they are working in-person or remotely.

Workers may be entitled to exemptions for a medical disability or “sincerely held religious belief,” according to an executive order signed by Baker in August.

Employees must prove vaccination status by Oct. 17. The requirement will eventually include a booster shot.

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UMASS CASES

Nearly 400 students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst tested positive for the coronavirus between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, the second week of the fall semester, the school said.

Most of the cases are in students who live off campus and were socializing indoors, the university said.

“We have not seen any spread in academic settings,” the school said in a statement Thursday. “Most cases continue to be of short duration resulting in mild-to-moderate illness. There was one hospitalization last week, and the person is home and recovering well.”

There were abut 150 cases in the first week of the semester.

One in 10 unvaccinated people at the university have contracted COVID-19, and 1.7% of the vaccinated population has tested positive, the school said in a follow-up Friday.

UMass requires vaccinations for all students, with medical and religious exemptions allowed. About 500 people have been granted exemptions, the school said.

UMass is 96% vaccinated, the school said.

The university canceled its student tailgate before the home football game on Sept. 11, but students will be allowed to tailgate before this Saturday’s home game.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.