The first phase of Boston’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for customers and employees of restaurants, gyms and other indoor entertainment and event venues goes into effect this Saturday.
But some say the policy shouldn’t be limited to Boston city limits.
While a handful of neighboring communities – such as Brookline and Salem – are also implementing similar policies, a small but growing number of Massachusetts’ most influential Democratic elected officials say all of the state’s 351 towns and villages should have a vaccine requirement for certain indoor locations.
The list includes a sitting US Senator, a sitting US Congresswoman, the President of the State Senate, and a candidate for Governor.
“If we are to be successful in protecting our communities in the long term, we need a statewide vaccine requirement for indoor social and recreational places,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, the one of the two Democrats currently running for governor. Boston.com in a statement Thursday.
Chang-Diaz, who also called for a statewide indoor mask mandate, added that such a vaccine requirement is “not the only tool we need to fight the disease. viruses – but it is an important and necessary piece of the puzzle to protect public health. “
This sentiment was echoed by Senator Ed Markey as well.
“I support a statewide vaccination mandate for entry into restaurants, bars and public spaces,” Markey said in a statement Thursday, adding that “We need to focus on vaccination and the vaccination of as many people as possible as quickly as possible “.
His comments come after Rep. Ayanna Pressley was asked during an appearance on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” on Wednesday whether there should be a statewide version of the vaccine requirement. of Boston for indoor social places.
“I don’t see why not,” Pressley replied.
Massachusetts Senate Speaker Karen Spilka also urged Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration earlier this week to require proof of vaccination for “major entertainment or social venues.”
“The COVID-19 crisis is not over and we still need our governor to call on all the resources he has to help us get through it,” Spilka tweeted tuesday.
Similar to Chang-Diaz, Pressley and Spilka say that such a requirement is not the only tool; They are also calling for a statewide renewal of the mask mandate for indoor public places, as well as greater flexibility on the part of the state allowing schools to temporarily switch to distance learning in Canada. middle of the omicron wave.
Markey also underscored the importance of vaccine awareness and education, especially in black, Latin, immigrant, indigenous and other vulnerable communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
But support for a statewide vaccination requirement for restaurants, gyms and other indoor venues – from Pittsfield to Provincetown – is new.
Nowhere else in the country has such a policy implemented at the state level. However, most of the country’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, have taken the plunge.
A MassINC Polling Group poll last month found 56% of Massachusetts voters said they support “stores and restaurants requiring proof
of clients’ vaccination, against 38 percent of opponents.
Yet in Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu’s new “B Together” policy was met with small but vehement protests and at least one unsuccessful trial. Reaction from affected companies has also been mixed, with some expressing appreciation for the rule, while others feared that enforcing the requirement would be an additional burden.
While asking 44,000 state employees and contractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Baker opposed extending the requirement to employees and customers of private companies like restaurants, gymnasiums and other indoor venues.
Marylou Sudders, Secretary of State for Health and Human Services, reiterated in a legislative hearing earlier this week that the Baker administration was “not inclined” to impose such a requirement.
At the same time, the Baker administration did not object to local towns requiring proof of vaccination for indoor recreation areas.
In fact, the Republican governor suggested during this week’s hearing that the state’s new verifiable digital vaccine card would make it easier for communities and businesses.
“I would be curious to see how [municipalities and business owners] choose to use the digital immunization card that we released yesterday, which in my opinion, without this kind of tool, is extremely difficult for people to operate in any way they can choose ”, said Baker said. “This card should allow people to do a variety of other things as well.”
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