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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

With DESE Finally Introducing Needed Universal Mask Mandate for Schools, Danielle Allen Continues to Press Mass Gov and DESE for Routine Process for Masking Advisories

 With DESE Finally Introducing Needed Universal Mask Mandate for Schools, Danielle Allen Continues to Press Mass Gov and DESE for Routine Process for Masking Advisories 


“The Governor’s office and DESE need to deliver effective coordination across the whole Commonwealth by equipping our schools with the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to keep everyone safe”



Cambridge, MA -- With public schools across Massachusetts returning to school in a week and DESE belatedly bowing to the realities of the Delta variant with a universal mask mandate for schools, gubernatorial candidate Danielle Allen is calling on Governor Charlie Baker and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to improve process around safety measures for students, teachers, and school staff amid the continued COVID spikes by instituting a routine process of advisories linked to triggers of safety protocols. 


Danielle Allen spearheaded a multi-disciplinary, cross-sector COVID response team that led to the Biden-Harris Pandemic Testing Board, an interstate compact to build out COVID testing resources, and Covid Collaborative guidance on infection prevention and control in K-12 settings that has been disseminated nationally, including through the US Dept of Education. She worked with the Cambridge Public School District throughout the 2020-21 school year to achieve a successful return to healthy and safe in-person teaching and learning.


Two weeks ago, Allen called on Baker and DESE to develop and implement a system of COVID alerts and advisories, similar to weather advisories, to communicate the levels of risk operative in the state, our communities, and our schools as those levels rise and fall over time, which would then trigger safety protocols in schools. Allen also called on the Governor’s office to develop model municipal ordinances and policies, linked to the alert system, to support coherent consistent response across the Commonwealth. Those advisories would trigger universal mask mandates and other measures like increased frequency of testing.


Now, Allen has released the following statement regarding the safety of our students and school personnel this fall: 


“As our teachers and school staff continue to adapt their COVID response protocols in the best interests of our students and school personnel, the Governor’s office and DESE need to deliver effective coordination across the whole Commonwealth by equipping our schools with the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to keep everyone safe,” said Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Danielle Allen. 


In addition to a mask mandate for everyone in school buildings, we continue to need


  1. A routinized system of COVID advisories, similar to weather advisories, as I proposed earlier in August. These advisories would work to communicate the levels of risk operative in the state; when a COVID warning is in effect (as should currently be the case), school districts and other entities working with vulnerable populations would be mandated to require universal indoor masking and expected to implement other routine responses to the advisories to protect health and safety for all in the school community.


We also continue to need:


  1. An expansion of the vaccine mandate for state employees in the executive branch to apply to public school personnel.

  2. A Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) survey of all school buildings to assess ventilation, and further needs for upgrades.

  3. Ongoing free provision of pooled, screening testing for all schools.

  4. Ongoing provision of contact tracing for all schools.

  5. Technical assistance on developing ongoing infection prevention and control, strengthening health teams in schools, and partnering with community health centers.


With so much of the world unvaccinated, COVID variants and new waves will be an issue for the foreseeable future. With smart policy decisions and effective communication, Massachusetts can achieve ongoing pandemic resilience and set a leadership standard. Rather than force school districts, parents, educators, and students to make time sensitive, high-pressure decisions from scratch every few weeks, the Governor’s Office should proactively develop routine processes, in consultation with regional and municipal partners, DESE, and DPH, to keep students and school personnel safe, no matter where in the Commonwealth they go to school or work.


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