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.

Hopeful Signs On COVID-19 At Belmont Manor, But Still A ‘Trying’ Month As Death Rise To 53

Photo: Belmont Manor where infections and deaths have slowed down

While saying April has been a ‘trying’ month, Wesley Chin, director of the Belmont Health Department, said the most significant COVID-19 hot spot in town has begun to stabilize.

Chin told the Health Board on Monday, April 27 the number of deaths related to COVID-19 has risen to 53 with 51 being residents of “a long term care facility” in town. Belmont Manor is the largest nursing home and rehabilitation center in the community and has been tied to the deaths in local and national news reports.

Since early March, Belmont has 159 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the vast majority being residents and staff of Belmont Manor.

“It’s been really hard,” said Chin, noting the facility has “a lot of elderly with pre-existing health conditions, and they’re what you would generally think of as being the most vulnerable right now to the COVID-19.”

But recently it appears the epidemic that spread through the 130-bed eldercare facility has lessened.

“It seems like that situation is starting to get a little bit better. Fingers crossed. The rate of fatalities appears to be slowing down quite significantly so that’s really positive,” said Chin.

Chin said his department has regular check-ins with the facility’s staff and administrator while receiving daily updates with the Belmont Emergency Management Agency and the Belmont Fire Department.

At Monday’s Select Board meeting, Chair Roy Epstein said in a statement despite actions taken by the town to assist Belmont Manor, “COVID-19 is an unprecedented deadly and evolving threat to the town as a whole. Our first responders and town departments will work tirelessly against this danger.”

While no one knows when the COVID-19 emergency will be over, “your town government and grassroot organizations like the Belmont Food Pantry and Belmont Helps stand ready,” said Epstein.

COVID-19 Cases Pass 100 As Belmont Manor Hit Hard During ‘Surge’

Photo: Belmont Manor

The number of residents with confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 keeps rising in Belmont, passing into triple digits with the town’s nursing homes continuing to get hit hard.

As of Monday, April 13, the state’s Department of Public Health has confirmed that 113 residents have confirmed cases of the virus, according to Wesley Chin, director of the Belmont Health Department, speaking before the Belmont Select Board on April 13. So far, 13 deaths have been connected to the virus.

In Massachusetts, there has been a total of 122,049 positive cases and 844 deaths as of April 13.

Approximately half of the positive COVID-19 cases and all the deaths in town have been residents of Belmont Manor, the 135-bed nursing home and rehabilitation center on Agassiz Avenue. Across the US, facilities such as Belmont Manor that treat or house older adults are now considered “an accelerator” of COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said earlier this month.  

Chin told the board the numbers of positive cases in town will continue to rise for foreseeable future.

“We are in the surge period,” Chin said, “so expect this number to continue to creep up pretty significantly over the next week to 10 days” which requires the continuation of social distance standards.

“It’s really important that people continue to keep vigilant and wear masks when out in public,” said Chin. And while the federal and state governments only recommends their use, “it really is something that is essential that people do especially in supermarkets, grocery stores, anywhere social distancing is difficult to do,” he said.

Select Board members said they collectively have seen people congregate around town, at the Cambridge Reservoir, around the perimeter of the Grove Street Park and walking on conservation land without regard to social distancing practices.

“People need to be serious about this,” said Adam Dash. “I think wearing a mask and keeping away from other people is a fair thing to ask at this point in time, especially when we heard [Chin] say we are in the thick of this thing.”

The number of confirmed cases in Belmont in March and April:

March 111
March 133
March 2710
March 3114
April 756
April 1195
April 13113

Playgrounds Now Off Limits As Belmont, State Shuts Down Public Gatherings

Photo: PQ Parks Playground is now

Playgrounds – but not parks – throughout Belmont are the latest areas to be officially closed by the Belmont Health Department in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the latest public health update issued Monday, March 16, Health Department Director Wesley Chin focused on actions taken by the state and his office over the weekend and today.

On Sunday, March 15, Gov. Charlie Baker announced additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The Governor’s Order includes the following restrictions throughout the Commonwealth that will go into effect on March 17.

  • All public and private schools will be closed through April 6.
  • All restaurants and bars will be prohibited from the on-premise consumption of food.  However, restaurants may remain open for now to provide food through take-out or delivery service.  These restrictions extend through April 17 but may be extended based on the spread of COVID-19.
  • Gatherings of 25 or more people are also banned. This includes all community, civic, public, leisure, and faith-based events. It also applies to gyms, private clubs, and theatres.

Chin announced that Belmont is taking additional precautions and instituting the following actions that will be effective on March 16

  • All Town of Belmont public playgrounds (specifically playground equipment) are closed.  At this time, open spaces such as fields remain open. However, the Belmont Board of Health and its staff ask all residents to engage in the social distancing practices detailed below.
  • Field use permits are suspended to discourage social gatherings. We are strongly discouraging activities that promote the gathering of people.
  • Public meetings and hearings will be limited to those that are considered necessary for the purposes of maintaining essential Town of Belmont government functions and that are mandated under federal, state, or local law/regulation.
  • Town Hall Offices are closed to the public. At this time access to these facilities will be limited to staff only.  Residents in need of assistance are encouraged to contact respective Town departments by phone and/or email
  • Important updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Town will be posted at .

The Belmont Board of Health and its staff ask all residents to immediately and seriously engage in the practice of social distancing. Social distancing means staying out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining a distance of 6 feet (minimum) or at least an arm’s length away from others when possible.

This means:

  • NO small gatherings (even though the state has capped gatherings at 25 people).
  • NO playdates (for individuals of any age).
  • NO sharing of childcare responsibilities with other families, unless you have been deemed an essential worker (i.e. Police, Fire, EMS, medical professional).
    • Essential workers should make every attempt to stagger their schedules with partners to allow for coverage of childcare.

Chin is advising residents to:

  • Stay home.
  • Minimize the number of trips you take to the store for food and medicine.
  • Avoid close contact with people who do not live with you.
  • Show compassion for your neighbors.
    • Make a plan with your elderly neighbors to check in with them on a daily basis via phone or email to help monitor their health and to see if you can help them obtain any food, prescriptions, or other basic needs.

Help save lives:

  • It is important that we all take social isolation seriously to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The transmission of this virus grows exponentially and will soon overtake our healthcare system. We must all work together for the common good of society. This is our chance to come together as a community to stem the spread of this virus. If we are all successful at social distancing, we will slow the spread of COVID-19, and this will give our healthcare providers and hospitals a chance to prepare to be able to treat people who may need scarce medical resources to survive the pandemic.  

Risk Low: Belmont Health Dept. Updates School District On Students And COVID-19

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist shown implementing molecular testing. (CDC image)

In a health advisory to the Belmont School Department issued today, Feb. 28, town’s health officials said the chances of students catching the new respiratory illness known as COVID-19 is currently slight but those attending Belmont schools should take precautions.

The state “that the risk for COVID-19 continues to remain LOW with one confirmed case … in Massachusetts,” wrote Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health Director in a memo released to the school district.

Due to the limited exposure to the illness statewide, Chin does not recommend wearing face masks or cancelling athletic or school events.

The memo comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn Americans that they should prepare for the possibility of an outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus as the new strain of flu continues to spread worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus which comes from a large family of viruses – which includes the common cold, flues and more severe respiratory illnesses – which may cause animals or humans to become sick.

Chin said the Belmont Health Department was sharing this updated information “to help keep it informed about the emerging global health concern” as it continues to monitor the latest information from the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The Belmont Health Department is following public health guidance provided by the CDC and MDPH, which “may include the monitoring of individuals who may be quarantined at home as needed.”

“As this situation continues to evolve, if any special instructions are provided, the Belmont Health Department will communicate them to the community,” said Chin.

Chin also list “some things you can do” to remain healthy:

Keep yourself and others healthy

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

Know the facts and help prevent the spread of rumors:

  • Be sure you are using a reliable source for your information
  • CDC updates its website frequently with information and guidance about COVID-19:
  • CDC continues to provide updates for travelers at:
  • MDPH provides regular updates for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
  • The Belmont Health Department will post community wide advisories on the Town of Belmont’s home page if there is a change in risk level:
  • Face masks are not recommended for the general public at this time.
  • Face masks can be useful in some settings, such as a clinic waiting room, to prevent someone who has a respiratory illness from spreading it to others.
  • Cancelling public events is not currently recommended as the risk for COVID-19

Please continue to remain calm and open-minded

History has seen many instances of societies excluding, blaming, or devaluing those feared to have an unfamiliar disease. Recent examples include Ebola, HIV, and past influenza pandemics where fear led to stigma and discrimination. In many instances, the discriminatory actions caused the health problems to worsen as those who felt alienated avoided seeking out health care and information they needed. We encourage you to continue to remain calm.


Contact your healthcare provider for all medical emergencies and health related concerns. All other questions may be directed to the Belmont Health Department at 617-993-2720.

West Nile Virus Found In Cambridge; Belmont Risk Factor Raised to ‘Moderate’


The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has raised the risk of Belmont residents being infected by the West Nile Virus from “low” to “moderate” after a human case of the virus was confirmed in Cambridge on Thursday, Sept. 12, according to the Belmont Board of Health and Health Department.

In a press release dated Friday, Sept. 13, the Board of Health re-
ported that no mosquito samples in Belmont have tested positive for the other mosquito-borne infectious illness, Eastern Equine Encephalitis
virusBelmont remains at “low” risk for EEE.  

The West Nile Virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquitoes that carry this virus are common throughout the state, and are found in urban as well as more rural areas. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe infection. 

By taking a few, basic precautions, people can help to protect themselves and their loved ones:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours – The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. 
  • Clothing Can Help reduce mosquito bites. Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot, wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
  • Apply Insect Repellent when you go outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.  Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin. Mosquito netting can be used on baby carriages for children for whom insect repellent is not appropriate.  
  • Drain Standing Water – Many mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of items that hold water at least two times each week. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.  
  • Install or Repair Screens – Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors. The Health Department will continue to work with MDPH to monitor mosquito activity in the Town and the surrounding communities and make additional recommendations as deemed necessary.

Controlling Trash And Rats: Carry-In/Carry-Out Trial Set For Joey’s Park, Town Field

Photo: Goodbye, rat magnet.

There were two photos projected on the wide screen at the Board of Selectmen’s Room during the board’s meeting on Monday, March 26.

On the left of the screen was a collection of garbage loaded up on a broken water fountain including what appeared to be a dirty diaper. The right side showed what appeared to be a birthday party but with all the paper plates and napkins, balloons, containers and food left on the benches and tables as if the people were suddenly taken in the Rapture.

The scenes presented to the board of recent conditions at Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood was just the spark to light the fuse to launch Selectman Mark Paolillo into orbit.

“That’s disgusting! How do people do this? It’s so disrespectful!” said Paolillo in an extended animated response, sending a message to the community that he and the town have had enough of those who litter and run.

“Those of you at home who did this; it’s outrageous!” said Paolillo.

The evidence of residents and possibly visitors from surrounding communities behaving badly by illegal dumping trash in the parks is prompting the town to reintroduce a program removing all trash barrels in town’s eight parks and playground to be replaced with a program where if you bring something into the parks, you’ll have to take the resulting waste out yourself.

“While there is no silver bullet that will end illegal dumping, this [policy] will be a long-term benefit,” said Jay Marcotte, Belmont Public Works director, as he presented the plan to the board.

While many residents were not in favor of the program known as Carry-In/Carry-Out when it was first introduced a year ago, the proposed policy is now also being used as a weapon to attack another issue facing residents: rats.

The rodent infestation has begun to plague certain parks and neighborhoods as the rats have discovered a ready source of food, coming from compost piles, pet food left outdoors, birdseed dispensers and household trash. And one of the easiest is the waste and food scraps left in and around the many barrels located in each park.

Currently, the town empties barrels Monday, Wednesday and Friday and whenever they are called, said Marcotte. But just by having trash containers creates a problem. “If you build it, they will come. And if you have trash barrels, the trash will come. It’s just the nature of what humans do, even if its overflowing,” said Marcotte.

While some residents contend the problem can be solved with more barrel pickups, Marcotte believes the best long-term approach is a conscious and sustained effort of re-educating the public.

A pilot program at Joey’s Park and Town Field between Beech and Waverley streets beginning in the next few months. The policy of taking away the trash is gaining in popularity locally and around the country. Nearby Walden Pond in Concord, the Boston Harbour Islands, the National Park System and the municipalities of Gloucester, Beverly, Reading, and Needham have joined the trend.

The DPW is working with the Board of Health to bring its expertise in educating the public. 

Board of Health member Dr. David Alper said while the board had reservations on a complete ban of receptacles, “Let’s try it. It certainly doesn’t cost us anything to hit the two big parks.”

“It comes back to education. You wouldn’t think you’d have to educate the public to pick up after themselves but you do,” said Alper. He also said the DPW will work with Winn Brook Elementary students to create signs and message to be placed around the parks to reinforce the policy.

“And hopefully the byproduct will be the rats will look elsewhere for food,” said Alper.

Brown Bag Talk: How Marijuana Regs Will Impact Belmont

Photo: Sale of marijuana begins 

The League of Women Voters in Belmont is holding a Brown Bag discussion on local marijuana regulations with members of the Belmont Board of Health and Planning Board on Friday, March 9, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission released draft regulations and has concluded hearings and discussions on these regulations. They are due to release final State Regulations by March 15. Licensing for facilities starts April 1 and retail businesses can open in communities that allow the sale of pot on July 1 with Belmont delaying openings until Dec. 31. How will this affect Belmont?

Bring your lunch; beverages and cookies provided. The meeting is open to the public.

Questions should be sent to

Plastic Bag Ban Set For May Town Meeting Vote

Photo: “Plastic or paper?” could become “Paper?”

The ubiquitous single-use plastic bag could soon be a memory in the Town of Homes as the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved on Monday, Feb. 26 sponsoring an article before the annual Town Meeting in May banning town retailers from providing the quintessential receptacle to their customers.

If passed by Town Meeting, the bylaw will take effect six months after the vote or on Nov. 1, 2018, whichever is later and would initially apply to stores with more than 30,000 square feet of retail space. Carthy said it would likely first impact the Star Market on Trapelo Road. The remainder of stores will have until nine months after Town Meeting approval or Feb. 1, 2019, to make the change.

The selectmen’s unanimous vote supports the initiative from the 15 resident group that formed in November seeking to end Belmont merchants use of the thin bags to check the harm it does to the environment – plastic bags harm animals and sea life that eat or are entangled by them – while also clogging storm drains and burdening solid waste disposal and recycling facilities. 

“The thin-film plastic bags are incredibly cheap so there is little incentive for merchants to make a change,” said the group’s spokesperson Mark Carthy of Stone Road and a Precinct 6 Town meeting member.

Carthy said the group submitted a Citizen’s Petition that was certified by the Town Clerk on Monday as a backup plan if the Selectmen had not accepted their proposal. 

“We are very pleased with [the selectmen’s] vote as it will make it an easier process under their guidance,” said Carthy.

Under the new bylaw, retailers will have two choices for customers; recyclables paper and reusable check-out bags made of natural fibers (cotton or linen), with stitched panels and can carry 25 pounds for more than 300 feet. The Belmont ban would include all plastic bags including the heavier, sturdy plastic examples which towns have allowed – an example is bags used by Russo’s in Watertown. Exceptions will include plastic bags without handles such as those covering or containing dry cleaning, newspapers, produce and meats, and bulk or wet foods.

For retailers who violate the ban, a written warning will come with the first offense. A second violation will be accompanied by a $50 fine and any further offense a $200 fine will be imposed and the fines will be cumulative and each day a violation occurs will constitute a separate offense.

Belmont is following the lead of more than 60 municipalities around the state which have installed bans in the past five years. Neighboring Cambridge has banned most plastic bags and charge a fee for paper bags since 2015 while Arlington’s ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect on March 1 for retailers over 10,000 square feet and on July 1 for all other retailers. 

Belmont will not be able to impose a fee for bags as Cambridge does since state law prohibits towns from imposing a surtax on bags but does allow cities, said Carthy.

While popular in Massachusetts, bag bans have been less than accepted elsewhere. State legislatures in South Carolina, Utah, Arizona and Florida have voted to prohibit municipalities from banning carry-out bags. 

While the selectmen and Board of Health, which the bag ban group visited Monday evening, support the proposal, each noted a concern the bylaw’s enforcement powers which are ceded to the Belmont Health Department, will place an additional burden on its small staff. Health Board member Dr. David Alper told the group executing the laws compliance rules “will not be high on our things to enforce.”

Alper advised the group to reach out to the Department of Public Works and Mary Beth Calnan, the town’s part-time Recycling Coordinator, which would “give you a better bang for the buck” as “they can educate the stores and be punitive” when needed.

Belmont Board Of Health To Hold Marijuana Talk, Q&A March 14

Photo: Marijuana will be discussed on March 14.
The Belmont Board of Health and Health Department invites the public to attend a talk by as one of the world’s experts in marijuana on the risks and benefits of this controversial plant titled “The Unbiased Truth; a One Hour Presentation and Q&A” on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at Beth El Temple Center auditorium, 2 Concord Ave.
With the likelihood a store selling marijuana in or close to Belmont will be up and running by the summer of 2018, a great deal of what’s been discussed concerning marijuana is either incomplete or untrue. To learn the truth about the subject, the Board of Health invited Dr. Kevin Hill, director of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to Belmont.
Hill treats patients with substance use disorders in a variety of settings. His research interests include the development of medications to treat cannabis use disorder as well as cannabis policy, and he has published widely on these topics in such journals as JAMA and Lancet Psychiatry. He provides a balanced factual approach to cannabis and his book “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed” is a valuable resource for many. He consults on cannabis-related issues to policymakers and prominent sports organizations nationwide.
The meeting is free and open to the public through a grant from Mount Auburn Hospital. For more information, call 617-993-2720.