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Mask Rules May Continue Locally Despite CDC Change; Schools Considering Vaccine Clinics

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Steve Junker
Immunization sign at Walmart in Falmouth.

The CDC issued new recommendations Thursday allowing fully vaccinated people to go without masks outdoors and indoors, with some exceptions.

The relaxing of guidelines does not apply to unvaccinated people, including children.

Cape Cod’s COVID-19 Task Force said the change is welcome news as summer approaches and the region heads into high season for tourism.

Task force spokesman Julian Cyr, a state senator, urged the public and visitors to continue to carry masks for situations that require them — like if you’re entering a business that wants to have that protection for employees.

“I expect a lot of businesses will be asking people to stay masked,” he said. “So just please continue to respect the people who are working really hard to welcome you here.”

Local authorities can still make their own mask rules. The CDC guidance does not supersede mask requirements from a state or local government, a workplace, or a business.

“We want to encourage our visitors to keep a mask handy,” Cyr said.

In addition, masks are still required in healthcare settings and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status.

To date, Gov. Charlie Baker’s order to wear masks indoors and when not physically distant outdoors remains in effect.

Twelve-to-15-year-olds are newly eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, and Barnstable County health officials are talking with school departments about vaccinating students.

Sean O’Brien, the county’s health and environment director, says locations haven’t been set, but he expects some districts will opt for a clinic at the schools.

“That would most likely be the way we’d go. … It’s usually best, and quite honestly, it's usually easiest, to bring the vaccine to the location,” he said.

A racial gap in who’s getting vaccinated for COVID-19 persists locally and nationally.

Cyr said this week that the state could help by providing more specific data. Right now, the Department of Public Health provides vaccination data by race and age but doesn’t combine the two variables.

“I'm curious,” he said. “Does that gap persist among older adults? Is it most prevalent in younger folks?”

Combining them would help pinpoint where local vaccinators should put their energy and outreach, the senator said.

Cape Cod’s vaccination rates of people receiving at least one dose were lower than 50 percent for people identified as Black, American Indian, or Multi-racial. The comparable number for people identified as white is 63 percent.

Cyr said vaccinators have been working to reach the Brazilian community on the Mid Cape, and he says targeted efforts like that need to continue.