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Gov. issues vaccine mandate for executive department workers

August 19, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of state workers in Massachusetts will need to prove they’re fully inoculated against COVID-19 by October or risk losing their jobs, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday.

The Republican said all executive department employees will need to provide vaccine proof by Oct. 17, arguing its the “best and most effective way people can protect themselves, their loved ones and their community from the virus.”

Thursday’s executive order is stricter than mandates imposed by Boston’s mayor and governors in New York, California and elsewhere, which also give government workers the option to submit to regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of getting inoculated. Washington state is among those that have required state workers to be vaccinated without the option of regular testing.

The order impacts roughly 42,000 workers, including both those working in-person and those working remotely.

Baker, who had resisted prior calls to impose such a mandate, said executive department employees who are not vaccinated or approved for an exemption by the deadline will be face disciplinary action, “up to and including termination.”

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He added that the administration will provide guidance in the coming weeks for employees seeking a medical exemption or who object to vaccinations for religious reasons.

But even as Baker issued the new mandate for certain state workers, others have called on him to take bolder steps.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and other leading Democrats have urged mandating vaccinations for all school staff. The Massachusetts Teachers Association has also voiced support for mask mandates for students and teachers.

A look at other coronavirus developments in Massachusetts:

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THEATERS AND VACCINE PROOF

A number of theaters in Massachusetts and Rhode Island will be requiring patrons to provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to attend indoor performances.

A group of about 15 theaters and production companies said Thursday they’d also be requiring patrons and staff to wear facemasks. The new policies are effective immediately and will remain in place at least through Oct. 31.

The theaters imposing the rules include the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, the Gloucester Stage Company and the Gamm Theatre in Warwick, Rhode Island.

The operators of the Wang and Shubert theaters in Boston have also said they’d enact similar policies starting Sept. 14, though they’ll only require unvaccinated patrons to mask up.

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VACCINE LOTTERY

State officials on Thursday announced the latest winners of Massachusetts’ $1 million lottery and $300,000 scholarship giveaway for vaccinated residents.

This week’s $1 million winner is Lilly Guttenplan, an elementary school teacher in Lowell with two daughters. She says she plans to set aside the money for her children’s college education.

This week’s $300,000 scholarship winner is Nadia Dutton, a sophomore at Rockland High School who is on the volleyball, basketball and lacrosse teams.

Baker’s office says Dutton hopes to attend college in the New England area and hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps and pursue a nursing degree.

Thursday’s announcement is for the fourth of five drawings in the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway. Thursday is also the registration deadline for the final giveaway, which will be announced next Thursday.

Fully vaccinated residents ages 18 and older are eligible to enter the $1 million contest while fully vaccinated youths between 12 and 17 years of age may enter the scholarship contest.

Residents only have to enter once to qualify, but they must also be legal, permanent residents and have received their vaccine doses in-state.

State officials say more than 2.5 million people have signed up for the giveaway, with about 2.3 million of them entered into the $1 million contest.

More than 300,000 residents have received a first dose of the vaccine, and more than 420,000 residents have become fully vaccinated since the giveaway was announced in June, Baker’s office said.

Massachusetts remains one of the most vaccinated states in the nation, with more than 64% of residents fully inoculated against COVID-19.