Indoor Mask Mandate At Town Buildings Return Wednesday; ‘Emergency’ Meeting Friday To Discuss Possible Town-Wide Order

Photo: Belmont welcomes back masks to town

Beginning Wednesday, August 4, visitors and employees in town offices and buildings will be required to wear a mask as Belmont responds to a recent surge of positive cases of Covid-19.

“It’s erring on the side of being cautious. It’s the best thing for the public health and safety of everybody,” said Health Board Chair Donna David as the Select Board approved the sudden return to a mandate after speaking to health and town officials at its Monday meeting. In addition, public meetings will revert back to being held via Zoom or other virtual software.

At this time, there is no scheduled date for the mandate to end.

On Friday morning, Aug. 6, the town’s health and select boards will hold an emergency meeting to discuss expanding the indoor mask mandate to local stores, offices and restaurants. While the town building mandate was a straightforward call, the Select Board appeared less eager to re-establish a full town-wide indoor mask requirement.

“I think the business community’s going to be really upset with us” if masks make a return, said the Select Board’s Mark Paolillo.

It appears Belmont’s schools will continue requiring masks indoors at the district begins the new school year in mid-September, according to Donna David, chair of the Health Board. “They are onboard,” she said.

Adam Dash, chair of the Select Board, told the meeting that in the past when cases were on the rise the town had followed closely recommendations from the state’s health department on mask “but now the state’s basically saying ‘it’s on you’. So here we are.”

At Monday’s meeting, Health Department Director Wesley Chin told the Select Board that after going more than three weeks without a case in early summer, the town has seen 20 Covid cases since July 4, half of which are “breakthrough” cases; when an individual tests positive after they’ve been fully vaccinated against the disease.

“So far, we’ve been lucky we haven’t had any hospitalizations or deaths with these breakthrough cases,” said Chin, noting that those exposed were in their 40s and 50s and relatively healthy. While Belmont has not entered the state’s designated “red” zone of new cases, David said it is moving into that range, with the added complication that within the next three weeks, children – many under 12 and unvaccinated – will be returning to town from family vacations and trips as they settle in before heading back to school.

David said since it has made a “very strong” recommendation to the School Committee to continue its mask mandate, he said her board was “pretty much in alignment that [masks] should extend to the town buildings and offices, whether you are vaccinated or not.”

The reason for being vigilant even with a majority of adults being vaccinated, said David, is due to what is being learned about the variant on a daily basis.

“Each day unfolds new information in terms of the viral load and how it spreads to others,” she told the board. “If you’re at work and you’re exposed and asymptomatic and take it home to your unvaccinated child or somebody who’s immunosuppressed.”

Paolillo said he would support masks for workers and those visiting town-owned facilities “as a way of protecting our employees” especially since the town will not ask who is vaccinated inside a building.

While Town Administrator Patrice Garvin had hoped to give the employees a level of expectation of when the order may cease, it will be up to the Health Board working closely with the town to determine when the mandate will end.

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Comments

  1. A Belmont citizen says

    I would like to thank the Belmontonian for making me aware of the new mask requirement in Belmont town buildings starting on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I wish I had known before going into the public library on Thursday afternoon. I meant to wear a mask into the building, but I was in a hurry and forgot to put one on. I did check once I got into the building but I had accidentally left the mask in the car. Since I’m vaccinated and I was in a hurry, I decided to return my books and leave. While walking upstairs to the book return, I passed several fellow citizens wearing masks, all of whom glared at me. However, it wasn’t until the nice, yet glaring, young man manning the checkout desk told me that masks were required did I learn that pertinent fact. Clearly everyone at the library believed that I was an entitled, middle-aged white scofflaw out to deliberately break the rules, when in point of fact, I was unaware of the new requirement put into place only the day before. I think it’s easy to make judgements based on how someone looks, but any one of my fellow citizens could have informed me of my error instead of giving me the evil eye. I didn’t see any signs at the library saying that masks were required (there was a sign saying please wear a mask), but they might have been there and I missed them because I was in a hurry. I did try to look up information on the new requirement upon returning home, and after looking at the town website, the library website, and the Belmontonian website, I finally found the information I needed on your website, So I thank you, and I will be more diligent in keeping up with the local news by reading the Belmontonian. As for my fellow Belmontonians, if you see someone who’s not wearing a mask when they should, just tell them. Chances are, they aren’t trying to flout the rules, they just haven’t heard about them yet. Hopefully if you say something to them, they will be enough of an adult to respond politely, but if not, that’s on them. And for the young man at the library, if Belmont keeps the mask rule, you might want to invest in a mask for men with beards, Unfortunately, standard surgical masks don’t work well on men with beards, and this has been known since the 1970s. I know this because I once worked at an infectious disease lab at the CDC.

  2. Andrea says

    We are still fighting a deadly virus that has killed over 600,000 Americans . A mutating virus that would like nothing more than the opportunity to kill many more. I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal for people to wear masks when inside buildings. I, for one, would rather wear a mask than a ventilator. Wouldn’t you?

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