Town Requires Facemasks In Belmont Businesses; Fines Could Come After Review

Photo: Masks are now required shopping in Belmont

The Belmont Board of Health and Select Board separately approved an emergency order on Monday, April 27, requiring customers to wear facemasks or coverings when entering “essential” businesses in town. The regulation also mandates employees to be masked.

The regulation goes into effect immediately and will continue until the Board of Health deems it unnecessary or the state ends the essential business designation.

The order targets businesses and services, not outdoor activities in public spaces such as running, biking, walking or walking the dog.

The order requires signs be posted storefronts informing the public of the regulations. Stores should limit the number of customers in the establishment in an effort to “enhance social distancing” while also offering the option of home delivery or online purchases and payment.

Business will also need to step up employee illness surveillance by asking if the worker has been ill as well as take their temperature before their shift.

While the new regulation does not have penalties for violating the emergency order, they could be added by the boards in the near future if they feel it is warranted.

The regulation comes as many communities – including Brookline, Salem, Beverly – are requiring residents to wear masks when entering a store or in public spaces. Somerville, for example, will issue a $300 ticket to those violating its regulations in any public indoor or outdoor space.

According to Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health Department director, the order is to provide an extra level of safety for employees of supermarkets, take out eateries and stores such as CVS Pharmacy who deal with the public during the pandemic. This week an employee of the Star Market on Trapelo Road died of the coronavirus.

A Star Market manager told Chin and Assistant¬†Director Diana¬†Ekman last week that passing an order requiring masks even without a fine against violators, their employees “would feel more empowered to walk up to a customer and ask them to ‘please put on face covering before entering the store’.”

“I don’t see a reason to wait to help supermarket workers,” said Julie Lemay of the Board of Health.

While the Board of Health does have the authority to enforce the new order, Chin said his small and very busy department doesn’t have the ability to issue tickets or fines to scofflaws.

Despite that challenge, Select Board’s Adam Dash and newly-appointed Board of Health Chair Stephen Fiore believe the new regs should have designated fines for those who break the order. They are hoping to amend the emergency decree within the next two weeks.

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