New guidance from state officials urges those living with unvaccinated people to mask-up indoors

Massachusetts public health officials are now advising vaccinated people who have weakened immune systems, who are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 because of age or health conditions, or who live with anyone who is unvaccinated or at increased risk, to wear a mask or face covering when indoors and not in their own homes.

Parents of young kids could be among those most affected by the Department of Public Health's updated advisory since no one younger than 12 is even eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine and may not be for months.

Also Friday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said it and DPH "strongly recommend that all students in kindergarten through grade 6 wear masks when indoors, except students who cannot do so due to medical conditions or behavioral needs" and that "schools allow vaccinated students to remain unmasked."

The update from DPH comes at the end of a week that saw the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reverse course and recommend that vaccinated people in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission go back to wearing a mask indoors as the Delta variant surges across Massachusetts and the country. DPH said it was issuing its updated advisory Friday "in light of the information provided by the CDC, and in order to maximize protection of vulnerable individuals from the Delta variant."

Gov. Charlie Baker said this week that he wanted the CDC to "provide us with information and data that supports the recommendations." On Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that an internal CDC memo acknowledged that the Delta variant is much more contagious, may lead to more severe illness and is more likely to break through the protection of a vaccine than previous COVID-19 mutants.

Baker has a press conference planned for 1:30 p.m. Friday at a Roxbury event to encourage youth vaccinations and he is likely to address the new advisory. He has said he is not considering reimposing travel restrictions.

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