Rep. Miranda urges Baker to allow remote learning, set indoor masking policy

Gov. Charlie Baker testifies

Gov. Charlie Baker took questions from COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management Committee chairs Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. Bill Driscoll during a virtual oversight hearing Tuesday. (Screenshot)

State Rep. Liz Miranda, who represents parts of Dorchester and Roxbury, sent a letter Wednesday to Gov. Charlie Baker, pressing his administration to expand testing supplies and offer cities and towns the option to return to remote learning for schoolchildren.

“Families in my district are at the very beginning of another economic crisis with small businesses closing, large events canceling, restaurants returning to take-out only and ending in-person dining, and our gig economy workers are once again left without resources,” she wrote.

Her letter asks for funds and staffing for daily mobile testing and vaccination clinics in “frontline communities disproportionately represented in COVID-19 cases,” including Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury and Hyde Park.

New state-sponsored booster and vaccine clinics opened in the last two weeks, including two in Roxbury (Whittier Street Health Center on Tremont Street and Melnea Cass Recreation Complex on MLK Jr. Boulevard).

The letter also calls for foreclosure protections, a Covid-19 response director as an overseer of the Department of Corrections’ response to a coronavirus outbreak in state prisons, a statewide indoor masking policy, and remote learning options.

The state should provide “clear guidance that public school districts should not be penalizing students, parents or guardians for staying home as a response to the increasing” infections.

Boston has seen a 32 percent positivity rate this week and long lines of people waiting for the opportunity to take a test as the omicron variant tears through the state and rest of the country.

City officials have extended hours at testing centers and said they would only shut down schools district-wide and go remote as a last resort. But at some schools, absences have reached 40 percent, according to city officials.

Mayor Michelle Wu on Thursday noted the high coronavirus positivity rate, with school staff, students and families getting exposed to the virus, but added that wastewater data indicates the peak “may be past us soon.” She said: “Closing our schools and moving to remote is a last resort but one we are prepared for.”

While Boston already has an indoor mask mandate, a universal mask mandate across the state is not under consideration within the Baker administration.

Gov. Charlie Baker and his health and human services chief, Marylou Sudders, have also resisted calls to return to remote learning amid the surge in the coronavirus variant.

"I'd also point out, and I spend a lot of time looking at other state data as well as our own data, is that New York, which has a mask mandate, COVID cases are through the roof, and so I don't know, other than further frustrating people in the public, what a mask mandate would do, a universal mask mandate,” she told lawmakers at a State House hearing earlier this week.

Before the hearing, administration officials announced that the state has reached an agreement for 26 million rapid tests, which will first go toward K-12 testing and early education.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.