As Covid Cases Surge, Belmont Schools Asking Students To Consider Going Back To Masks

Photo: Belmont schools are suggesting students consider wearing masks as Covid cases surge

The Belmont school district is suggesting students consider going back to wearing masks as the number of positive Covid-19 cases in the schools, town and county have spiked in the past two months.

“We are not mandating but simply recommending this added layer of protection,” said Belmont Superintendent John Phelan in an email to the school community dated Monday, May 9.

Phelan said that since the April break, the district has ”seen an increase in cases and this is most likely due to the contagiousness of the Omicron variant, as well as, increased social gatherings and travel.”

The surge of local cases has resulted in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to raise the Covid-19 Community Level for all of Middlesex County to the “high” level on May 5.

In Belmont, the number of new weekly positive cases in schools reached 93 as of May 4, a significant increase from previous weeks, shadowing the jump in the general population as the state reported 165 positive cases in the past two weeks. Using the Average Daily Incidence Per 100,000 people, 14 day period measurement, Belmont has gone from a low of 6.8 incidences on March 4 to 43 on May 4.

“We continue to work closely with the Belmont Health Department to monitor cases and keep our students and staff safer. We ask for your continued support in this effort, particularly at times like this when we experience increasing cases,” said Phelan.

Noting that many of the past mitigation measures Belmont and its schools had implemented since March 2020 have been lifted – the town’s mask requirement was ended in the first week of March 2022 – Phelan asked parents and students ”consider” mask wearing as an extra layers of protection and when symptoms are present and antigen tests remain negative.

Maskless in March? Belmont Health Board Moving Towards Recommending Lifting Town, Schools Mask Mandate Next Month

Photo: This sign could be obsolete in March.

With nationwide positive rates of Covid-19 infection are falling as quickly as they skyrocketed two months ago, the Belmont Board of Health declared it will take a vote on lifting the town-wide and school mask mandate in the next month.

“That’s our intent,” Board of Health Chair Donna David said affirming the board’s decision. “We see masking coming to our March meeting” after the board appeared ready to change how it will determine the green light for ending the mandate.

When David asked the town’s Health Department Director Wesley Chin if he will provide a heads up to Belmont Superintendent John Phelan to prepare for a possible lifting of the school mandate put in place when students came back to class in March 2021, an unknown resident who had not muted themselves after speaking earlier, spouted out “Yes! Yes!”

The Board of Health has sole responsibility on imposing and ending mask mandates in public schools; the Select Board will take the Health Board’s recommendation into consideration whether to move on cancelling the mandate for businesses, town buildings and other public locations.

Starting the portion of the meeting, David proclaimed “Let’s talk about masks, Wesley” who said his office has been receiving “a number of calls” on the subject.

The Health Board’s “update” comes as states and municipalities across the country have suddenly begun dismantling mandates and other preventive measures.

Health Agent Lindsey Sharp told the board the latest Covid infection data is showing “a definite down swing” in the past month as the number of positive cases has fallen from more than 200 a week two months ago to 156 last week and 86 for the current seven days while 80 percent of those infected have been vaccinated.

But while saying the “numbers are better, we’re not there yet,” said Chin, stating he would not recommend voting Monday to take down the mask mandate as February vacation week is about to occur and Chin wanted to see the numbers of infections. He also noted that there has not been a vaccine approved for the youngest residents under the age of five.

The meeting witnessed a coordinated group of residents whose mission was to press the point that requiring masks indoors in buildings and the six town schools had passed its expiration date. Pat Whittemore, who said his opinions on masks “are very well known” claimed children with positive cases are not likely to be hospitalized when infected with Covid. He advocated “a nice middle step” of making mask wearing voluntary in schools.

John Link said mask wearing is not effective for children as “kids have zero chance to die” when they catch the coronavirus. He also said mask wearing by children can potentially lose 10 points from their IQ. Rather than an “onerous regime of wearing masks,” he also believes masks should be up to the discretion of the parents. In the same vein, David McLaughlin said there is a greater danger for children to be masked than being stricken by the Covid Omnicron variant. (Board member Adrienne Allen noted approximately 800 pediatric deaths in the US have been caused by Covid “so it’s not trivial.”)

Other residents was concerned about the town mandating vaccine passports (the Health Board and Select Board have not considered a vote on these regulations currently used in Boston) while other pointed to the high rate of student vaccination – in the higher grades up to 90 percent – as being enough to deter Covid’s debilitation effects.

Some residents wanted to take a slower approach on ending the mask mandate. “Thank you for following the science,” said Marina Atlas who felt really confident by the board’s appropriate use of data that show that masks work on Covid and other air pollutants.

It soon became clear that the board would not take action at its meeting but “we should consider another few weeks” after the February break to review the Covid data in Middlesex country.

“But [mandates are] not going on forever,” said David, who suggested taking a vote at the board’s next meeting in a month’s time.

“I agree this is not forever, as long as [the data] improves,” said Allen. Member Julie Lemay suggested the board change the data rubric for ending the mandate from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rates and rely on one which uses number of hospitalizations to cases as a possible standard.

”I like that,” said David.

Phelan: District At ‘Breaking Point’ As Covid Cases Skyrocket In Belmont Schools

Photo: Belmont Superintendent John Phelan

A snow day this past Friday couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the Belmont District Schools.

As the Omicron variant of the Covid coronavirus sweeps through Belmont schools after students returned from the winter recess, absentees among educators and staff has placed the district close to a breaking point whether there’s enough teachers in each building.

The numbers say it all.

In the final week of 2021, 16 Belmont students, educators and staff reported being infected with a new case of COVID-19. A week later, on Jan. 5, that tally exploded to 228 novel positive cases across the district’s six schools.

New Covid positive cases
(students, staff, teachers)
Week endingnumber
01/05/2022228
12/29/202116
12/08/20214
11/17/20216

“The impact of the staff attendance and staffing levels is a real concern of the district,” Belmont Schools Superintendent John Phelan told the School Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 4 as 72 and 73 staff members were out on Monday and Tuesday respectively. And while praising substitute teachers and district employees for stepping up and filling in, Phelan told the committee the current patchwork approach for cover classrooms “is not sustainable.”

On Monday, Jan. 3, a staggering 605 district students (out of a total of approximately 4,600) were not in class while Tuesday showed an improvement where 473 were out due to Covid, traveling and those waiting for results of Covid tests. The usual number out on an average week is about 275. This is occurring in a system that has impressive numbers of vaccinated students. (See chart below)

“We believe that that we haven’t seen the worst of this phase of the virus at this point in time,” said Phelan, with the next weeks seeing staff and families make some “truly hard choices” related to going to school. Friday’s snow storm was a blessing for many teachers and family as it provided an extra day away from the classroom and added a day towards a quarantine total.

Phelan and his leadership team calculated teacher attendance would hover just below 90 percent which posed significant challenges requiring the district to set up a educational “triage” system to allow school to open on the first Monday of the new year.

On Sunday, teachers and staff came to Belmont to receive take home tests while on Monday the start of schools were delayed by one hour so teachers could receive KN95 masks, “ensure that we had time for our educators to get together, our principals with teachers and other administrators to support the setting up of the school day.”

Staff, central office personnel and other non-educators were redeployed and placed in classrooms to support teachers. The district also doubled its rate for substitute teachers while proactively recruiting to ensure it has sufficient numbers to place before students arrived on Monday

But even with adults in the classroom, Phelan said certain aspects of the school day have been lost such as small group instruction and parts of the traditional school day schedule that teachers can best perform effectively.

The challenge of lunch

Phelan also pointed to student lunch time as “one of the largest challenges moving forward.” With the large tents at the elementary and Chenery schools allowing for an outside option taken down for the winter, Phelan said he is attempting to balance Covid safety with feeding students. That will require keeping masked in the cafeteria, assigned seating, shortening lunch times by sending students to recess early, keep talking to a minimum and keeping their distance.

Sports and extracurriculars will soon see restrictions on the number of who can attend contests, restrictions on using locker rooms and a greater emphasize on proper mask wearing during play. This comes after a growing number of student/athletes and at least two sporting events were cancelled due to Covid outbreaks.

Phelan has been in discussion with his fellow area superintendents on possible changes to the schedule or length of the school day for elementary, middle and high schools as a way of keeping them safe from spread while providing adequate education.

“We want to keep our options open,” Phelan told the committee. Moving forward, the district will be keeping an eagle eye on in-school transmission rates, new positive cases in the community and keep appropriate staffing levels to allow schooling to take place.

While more parents and guardians are calling for the district and committee to consider the role of remote learning during this surge, Belmont – along with school districts statewide – finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Districts are prohibited by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to return to full-time remote learning. And while DESE has established a protocol for when a school or entire district can seek permission to re-impose virtual learning, it has been done only in “a very few cases,” in the past months, said Phelan.

“{DESE) is keeping a very tight rein on [granting waivers],” he said.

Please Remember

When asked by the Belmontonian if the district has set a benchmark of when it would be prudent to close schools due to staff shortages, Phelan said there was no set percentage.

“We will assess our staffing levels daily to determine our coverage models. This looks different at each level. We need to assure that all students are engaged and properly supervised,” he said.

If a school or district simply must close due to staffing shortages, Phelan said DESE has informed districts they will need to use a “snow day” with the requirement it is made up at the end of the school year.

The district’s actions this week are at best a stop gap until the pandemic peters out which health experts said will not happen soon enough. All this is being played out as the district is facing ever “shifting guidance” from state and federal agencies on Covid safety.

Phelan told the committee the recommendations from the CDC and DPH are, at best, “inconsistent” such as the CDC requiring 10 days out of class and DESE five; no requirement for testing to return that many parents and school administrators find and DESE and CDC not on the same page on contract tracing (Belmont has abandoned it due to staffing issues).

The district will also step up its promote parents to sign up their students for pool testing, which “is more important now than ever for us to get a very clear picture through pool testing mechanism … for this upcoming year,” said Phelan.

While it has a plan in place to continue in-school education, Phelan said the new reality of variants and their impact will remain with the district when this current surge subsides.

“This is only one step in a long journey,” said Phelan.

Belmont Records First Covid Death In 9 Months As Positive Cases Spike

Photo: The latest update of Covid in Belmont

A resident died two week ago due to the Covid-19 virus, the first Belmont victim since March, as the number of positive cases in town and across the nation are approaching all-time highs over the holiday season.

The death occurred during the week of Dec. 10-17, the first fatality linked to the coronavirus since March 19 when two Belmontians succumbed to the virus.

The deaths comes as the number of positive Covid cases have skyrocketed to near record numbers not seen since the worst days of the pandemic in January 2021. Belmont recorded 106 new positive cases in the week ending on Dec. 24, up from 61 in the pervious week. There has been 1,741 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Belmont since the first cases in the pandemic were reported in March 2020. Currently, Belmont and Middlesex County remains at “high risk” for the spread of Covid according to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I wish I could say we’re in a better place but we continue to in the wrong direction like much of the states,” said Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health director, pointing to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 which is sweeping across the country. The Washington Post reported top US health officials warned that the country “will probably see record numbers” of cases as the new variant “spreads rapidly.”

Of the new cases in Belmont, 57 percent are breakthrough which is an infection that occurs to a fully vaccinated person, said Chin. A further 8 percent of those infected involve those who have received a booster, or third, shot.

The one piece of good news during this surge is that hospitalizations of those infected is quite low. “This month we’ve learned of two hospitalizations,” said Chin, with most people being able to be treated at home with mild to moderate symptoms.

“The takeaway message is it seems like the booster shots are helping, so we want to encourage people to get their … shots,” said Chin.

The Health Department is holding a “booster” clinic on Tuesday, Dec. 28 at Beth El Temple Center geared for students between 16 and 17 years old who are now eligible for the shot.

Booster Monday At Beth El: Free Covid-19 Shots From 4 PM to 7 PM

Photo: Getting your card filled with a booster shot

The Belmont Health Department is offering a limited number of Moderna Covid-19 booster shots to eligible residents 18 and up. Massachusetts has expanded the eligibility criteria for booster shots, and the new criteria can be found below.

Belmont’s booster dose clinic will be held on Monday Dec. 13 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Beth El Temple Center, 2 Concord Ave.

Register for a booster dose appointment here:
https://home.color.com/vaccine/register/belmont
If you have difficulty with registration, call 617-993-2720 or email Lsharp@belmont-ma.gov for assistance.

Please present insurance cards, photo ID, and vaccination cards at appointment.

  • If you are 18+, and received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, you can get a booster dose once two months have passed since your original dose.
  • If you are 18+, and received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you can get a booster dose once six months have passed since your second dose.

*Booster shots can be any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of your original dose; at this clinic the Moderna vaccine will be provided.

As Communities Reconsider Masks, Belmont Stands Pat On Coverings Indoors, In Schools

Photo: Hopkinton is the first Massachusetts school district to end mask mandates at its high school (Credit: Hopkinson High School website)

As the first town in Massachusetts has ended a mask mandate at its high school on Monday, Nov. 1, Belmont will be standing pat with requiring coverings for students and public indoor activities.

At its meeting on Monday, the Belmont Select Board heard from Health Department Director Wesley Chin who discussed Covid-19 in Belmont. Chin noted 74 total cases in October, compared to 71 in September with 35 the average age of those infected. Under CDC standards, Middlesex County “still sits in high risk for transmission and Belmont is still in substantial risk,” said Chin.

Chin agreed with Board member Mark Paolillo who said, despite a plateauing of cases nationwide, with Belmont remaining in the substantial risk level of transmission, “we’re not in the position at this point based on the statistics … to lift any mask mandate.”

But Chin did tell Paolillo he believes the town could return to the mandate after the first of the year.

“I think we’re in a sort of gray zone right now. We’re … cautiously watching and eager to see what the holidays bring us. Once we get past the New Year, we should reassess and see where things are,” said Chin.

Hopkinton lifted its mask mandate at its high school for the next three weeks on a trial basis after the school in the center Massachusetts town exceeded the 80 percent Covid-19 vaccination threshold for students and staff which Massachusetts Gov. Baker’s administration set in September to end requirements.

An Oct. 15 article in the Boston Globe found Belmont and 61 other Massachusetts school districts had reached the levels to end mandates. In fact, the Globe found Belmont far exceeding the state requirement: 90 percent of students between ages 12-15 and 89 percent 16-19 have been vaccinated.

When asked to comment on the findings, Belmont Superintendent John Phelan said the mandate “was voted on by the Belmont Board of Health and School Committee. The School Department respect the decision and are following this policy” with any discussion of ending the ban should go through the Board of Health.

But Phelan did leave the door a bit ajar on reconsidering the mandate.

“All issues are open to discussion and I am sure the decisions will be in the best interest of keeping our students, staff and community safe,” said Phelan.

Belmont MCAS Scores Dip In Covid-19 Year; Performance Exceeds Statewide Results

Photo: MCAS scores in Belmont and statewide slumped.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most recent MCAS test scores for Belmont students took a dip as the district struggled to provide a first rate education model during a worldwide pandemic. But with the exception of a sharp drop in the percentage of elementary and middle school students meeting or exceeding in math, the district performance held its own compared to scores for all Massachusetts students.

While the statewide scores showed some large discrepancies from grade to grade, “Belmont did not see the same degree of [downward] shift,” said Belmont Superintendent John Phelan at the Belmont School Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Yet, Phelan said, “any shift is important to note.”

The statewide MCAS test results from the spring 2021 exam released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Sept. 21 showed many more students had gaps in their knowledge of math and, to a lesser extent, English language arts, compared to students in the same grades before the COVID-19 pandemic, and fewer students meet or exceeded grade level expectations.

“Each percentage point is very, very important to us because they represent our students,” said Phelan. ”The real important work is to look at how each student … fared with this testing and use that data.”

“We tend to perform higher than the state average in all categories. So we’re thankful for that. But to be repetitive, we do have our own expectation of Belmont. We need to compare ourselves to what our goals are and that’s the work of the district moving forward,” said Phelan.

(The state did not administer MCAS tests in spring 2020, near the start of the pandemic, so the most recent year to compare with this year’s scores is 2019.)

In Belmont, 76 percent of students in grades 3-8 met Expectations or higher in English language arts in 2021, and 67 percent did so in math. Both of these represent a drop compared to 2019, when 80 percent scored at that level in English language arts and 81 percent did so in math. Still, Belmont’s 67 percent is nearly double the 34 percent of statewide students who are in the top two categories.

For 10th grade English language arts, 88 percent of students scored Meeting Expectations or higher in 2021, compared to 90 percent in 2019. In 10th grade math, 85 percent of students scored Meeting Expectations or higher in 2021, compared to 91 percent in 2019. These represent a slight drop when comparing 2019 to 2021. Like the elementary/middle school grades, Belmont high schoolers continue to exceed the scores of their state compatriots.

Phelan said the MCAS data will now be sent to the district’s academic directors and school principals to discuss how to utilize nearly $150,000 the district put aside to supporting students this year.

Having anticipated a likely drop in math scores in the early grades, Phelan said the district has allocated funds from its ESSR account – money sent by the federal government to school districts during the pandemic – to hire a pair of math coaches at the elementary level who will work primarily with third and fourth grade students. They also will be working at the middle school with students who need support.

Phelan said high school students will have less time to make up the drop in scores, the district will be reinforcing the skills all students have to know and be able to do before they leave Belmont High, said Phelan.

“We’ll be working with those students in those content areas moving forward,” he said.

Schools Mask Mandate Will Stay Until The New Year: Board Of Health Chief

Photo: A sign you’ll see in schools by the holiday break

Parents and students hoping for a quick end to the mask mandate in Belmont schools – specifically for high school students – saw their wishes dashed as the head of the Belmont Board of Health believes masks will be a part of the school day up to the holiday break in the last weeks of December.

The declaration by Chair Donna David came during the Board of Health’s Aug. 16 meeting during which the board clarify aspects of the town-wide indoor mask mandate that passed on Aug. 6 as well as make clear that the schools and town will have different standards of when to end mask requirements.

Based on public feedback after the previous week’s Belmont School Committee’s, there was a desire to clarify the confusion of when the town-wide mask mandate would end in the Belmont schools, said Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health Department director. Under a sunset clause in the town-wide directive, the face covering requirements will be lifted when Middlesex county records two consecutive weeks of lower infection rates.

In the board’s new plan, the schools’ mask mandate is now a separate from the town’s document. “Pretty simple and straightforward,” said David.

The new regulation states: “Face coverings are required for all individuals aged two years and above except where an individual is unable to wear a face covering dude to a medical condition disability.”

Under the new regulation, the board will incorporate guidance and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the state’s Department of Health to decide when the mask mandate will be dropped.

While the board will be monitoring the data and taking daily advice from the town’s health department, David said until the Covid-19 vaccine is available to children under 12 – both Pfizer and Moderna say they anticipate sharing results and seeking authorization for their vaccine in ages 5 to 11 as early as September or October – and the number of overall cases are declining, she doesn’t see a reason to remove the mandate and “this could easily be in effect through December.”

”This brings a little stability to what we’re doing and what our line of thinking is,” said David. Until the under 12 vaccine is available, “‘we’re kind of in a holding pattern because, in the schools particular, we’re doing this to protect those who cannot be vaccinated.”

The board also voted to bring greater clarity to the town’s mandate after receiving public comments on the document the Select Board approved last week.

The four clarifications are:

  • Indoor performers at public spaces such as the Beech Street Center, restaurants or schools are required to wear face coverings,
  • Private residences are excluded from the mandate,
  • Residents and employees in multi-unit homes and apartments are required to wear face coverings when inside common hallways and spaces, and
  • Members and employees in private membership clubs are required to wear face coverings while indoors.

“It’s not drastically different, just more detailed,” said Adam Dash, chair of the Select Board which reviewed the changes at its Monday night meeting.

Belmont Schools To Open Year Under Universal PreK-12 Mask Mandate

Photo: Belmont students will start the new school year wearing masks.

Belmont students and teachers throughout the district will be wearing masks to start the new school year beginning on Thursday, Sept. 9, after the Belmont School Committee at its Monday, Aug. 9 meeting accepted a town-wide universal mask mandate approved by the Board of Health and the Belmont Select Board on Friday, Aug. 6.

The committee will “revisit the mask policy and discuss strategies to increase vaccination rates” with the Health Board sometime at the end of September, according to the policy.

“I believe it’s really important to provide Belmont school families and staff with clarity about the masking plans and requirements for the beginning of the 2021-22 school year,” said School Board Chair Amy Checkoway.

Attended by approximately 200 via Zoom, the meet showed no sign of contentiousness or rancor seen at school committee meetings across the country – notably one held on Tuesday in Franklin, Tenn. – that resulted in anti-masking protests and threats of violence, while a Fox Entertainment personality claimed masking students is done to “terrify” them and anti-mandate decrees being issued by a handful of governors.

During the three hour meeting, Superintendent John Phelan presented the district’s proposed “Back to School Health/Safety Protocol Plan” for the 2021-22 school year created by the district’s Health Team. Its recommendations include:

  • Implement indoor masking for staff and students in accordance to the Aug. 6 town-wide decree.
  • Masks required on buses and at health clinics.
  • No mandate for outdoor activities or while students are at lunch.
  • Maximize distances in classrooms and cafeterias at the elementary and middle schools including providing outdoor space.
  • Encourage vaccinations for staff and students 12+ and host vaccination sites at schools.
  • Testing, quarantining and contract tracing is also recommended; the district is waiting for state guidance.

Phelan told the committee the district would be seeking direction on creating an indoor mask mandate for the entire student population and staff. The Health Team’s guidance would be provided by the state – using the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) – the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Phelan noted “there’s a lot of similar guidance” from the three sources and that included masking for all preschool and elementary school students as they currently can not be vaccinated. The one area Phelan said where the three entities differed is in-school masking for vaccinated student in 7th through 12th grade. While the AAP and CDC recommend masks, the state’s DPH advise masks if the student lives with someone who is not vaccinated or immunocompromised while DESE would allow vaccinated students to remain maskless while indoors.

Masking challenge for High School students

Since half of the grades at the Belmont’s Chenery Middle School fall under the elementary policy and the other half in the 7th to 12 range, Phelan said it was best that all students remained masked as the four grades will come in contact throughout the day. This left the School Committee to determine the masking in the traditional 9-12 high school grades.

Adrienne Allen, the Board of Health’s observer at the School Committee, told the committee that as a physician she was “very hopeful” two months ago that vaccinations would create a situation where mask use could safety be reduced. “But then things rapidly changed before our eyes with [the] Delta [variant],” she said, with the most disconcerting part being vaccinated people can spread the variant which is nearly as contagious as chickenpox.

With the overriding goal of the School Committee and district is to “keep kids in school as much as possible” while mitigating harm as much as possible, said Allen. And masking protects people from a source; for example, “if I had Covid and I’m wearing a mask, you’re protected. But it also protects other people.”

So if you want to keep students in school and protected, the schools should have a universal mask mandate, said Allen.

It soon became clear the Committee’s consensus was to start the school year with grades Pre-K to 12 masked. And each of the members agreed there will likely be a time when the mandate will be modified or ended. Coming to what that point was where the committee split.

For Jamal Saeh, the answer, for at least 7th to 12th grade pupils, was already baked into the town-wide mask mandate. Rather than reinvent the wheel, Saeh pointed to the town policy that says the mandate will end when the level of community transmission for Middlesex county as recorded by the CDC is designated as either low or moderate for two consecutive weeks.

But the other members pointed to the unique nature of the schools where, unlike the town-wide impact on stores, eateries and offices in which people may spend a few minutes to an hour, students and staff in schools are inside and interacting with dozens of fellow students for six hours or more.

Committee member Mike Crowley what masking does is helps the district “avoid disruptions that so rattled the community last year.” And while it’s impossible to know with any certainty what the coming year will bring but masking seems to be a fairly effective strategy.” For Crowley and others, rather than have a “ridged” standard as the town-mandate, the policy should be reviewed on a regular basis.

The committee did agree with Saeh that the first review of the mask mandate should take place in late September and also to advocate for increased vaccinations among students – those in 9th to 12th grades have about a 80 percent fully vaccination rate – with future discussion on a possible requirement that staff be vaccinated.

”If we learned one thing from last year, it’s that people value in person schooling,” said Committee member Andrea Prestwich, and masking not only tamps down Covid spread but also the flu and other respiratory illnesses “and takes some of the load off of our nursing staff.”

Belmont Enacts Town-Wide Indoor Mask Mandate Starting Monday

Photo: A town-wide mask mandate takes effect in Belmont at midnight, Aug. 9.

Belmont will enact a town-wide indoor mask mandate starting at midnight, Monday, Aug. 9, after the Health Board voted unanimously to approve the requirement and the Select Board endorsed the decision 3-0 at an emergency meeting held on Friday morning, Aug. 6.

The mandate will impact all establishments that has public indoor spaces including stores, eateries and offices. (See the order below) The town-wide regulation comes days after the Select Board placed a mask mandate on town buildings.

Belmont’s order mirrors the order passed by the community of Provincetown after the Cape Cod community saw a significant surge in infected residents despite having a 95 percent vaccination rate.

The return of the covering ordinance comes as the Covid-19 Delta variant is sweeping across the country increasing the number of positive coronavirus cases. After nearly a month when the town saw a single positive infection, Belmont has seen a significant uptick of 18 new cases over the past two weeks, with several being “breakthrough”, in which a fully vaccinated person is infected. The CDC has designated Middlesex county as having substantial level of infection.

The town-wide mandate will end when the level of community transmission for Middlesex county as recorded by the CDC is designated as either low or moderate for two consecutive weeks. That information is released by the CDC on Sunday afternoon.