Photo: Belmont Town Hall which has been closed to the public for the past 14 months
On the same day Gov. Charlie Baker said the state would lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions effective Memorial Day, May 29, the Belmont Select Board approved rescinding the town’s emergency regulations requiring residents to wear masks and social distancing.
“Belmont will end the temporary regulations to mirror the state’s mask guidelines,” said Chair Adam Dash at the Select Board’s meeting on Monday, May 17.
“The state will just be implementing a new advisory for face coverings that’s going to replicate what the CDC guidance is around face coverings for the moment,” said Diana Ekman, assistant director of the Belmont Health Department. Residents who are fully vaccinated don’t have to a need to wear a face covering indoors except under certain circumstances such as schools, using public transportation, visiting child and elder care settings, said Ekman.
Those who have yet to be vaccinated should continue to use mask, said Ekman. In addition, Belmont business owners can still require customers to wear masks.
The town and the board can now begin the work to reopen town’s offices and revert back to public meetings once the Massachusetts state of emergency – in effect since March 10, 2020 – is lifted on June 15, approximately a month after Monday’s meeting.
“So we have a lot of planning to do in a very short amount of time,” said Dash. “We’re going to have to start meeting in person sooner than later which overall is a good thing except we weren’t really prepared” as Baker said last month it would be mid-August when the state of emergency would be retracted.
One event that will not take place will be Town Meeting which will take up the budget segment beginning June 2.
Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said after speaking to Wes Chin, Belmont’s health director, once Baker issues the order to lift the emergency order, “Town Hall will most likely be open.” As for a return to board and committee meetings and the open of locations such as the Beech Street Center, “we have to figure this all out,” said Dash, which will include maintaining a virtual presence at meetings which have been popular and a success in upping public participation.
“It’s going to be a bit of a transition back to the old ways with hopefully some taste of the new ways … but we have a little time to play with it.”