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Greenfield health board issues indoor mask mandate, effective Monday


Staff Writer
Published: 9/14/2021 5:28:05 PM

GREENFIELD — Following suit of several other communities in the region, the city has issued an indoor mask mandate, effective Monday.

The mandate — issued by Mayor Roxann Wedegartner following a vote by the Board of Health Monday evening — applies to anyone over the age of 5, unless medically exempt, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in public spaces and private businesses.

Greenfield joined the communities of Conway, Buckland, Leyden, Charlemont, Gill, Rowe, Shelburne and others in Franklin County to issue such a mandate.

Wedegartner, in conjunction with the Board of Health, is also recommending wearing masks when outdoors in gatherings exceeding 20 people, where social distancing is not possible.

“A lot has changed since we last met,” said Board of Health Chair Nancee Bershof on Monday evening, referring to a meeting last month during which the board tabled a mask mandate in favor of monitoring the situation further. “I am no longer ambivalent about the need for this. The need is clear. … I don’t have any questions about passing the motions at this time.”

Prior to the vote, Public Health Nurse Megan Tudryn said the city has had 48 positive cases of COVID-19 this month, compared to five in September last year.

“I have four that are hospitalized,” she said. “Two of those are in the ICU. One is vaccinated, one is unvaccinated, and they’re both under 60 years old.”

Health Director Jennifer Hoffman said 40 COVID-19 cases in Greenfield remain active, 10 of which are among vaccinated people.

Tudryn said people this year are “much sicker” than they were last year.

“Last year, most people said they didn’t have any symptoms or they had mild cold symptoms,” she said. “Now, when I’m interviewing patients, they say they feel like they’re going to die.”

Although the decision for an indoor mask mandate passed unanimously with minimal discussion, there was debate over also instituting an outdoor mask mandate for gatherings exceeding a certain size — regardless of whether an event is in a public or private setting.

Some board members, however, pointed out that the indoor mask mandate, which had just been approved, applied to public and private businesses, not private residences.

“I just think we want to be really thoughtful and not contradict ourselves,” said Board of Health member Alyssa Valbona.

During the meeting, Wedegartner agreed with Valbona, adding that “it seems at odds” to have an outdoor mandate that applies to private residences and an indoor one that doesn’t.

Hoffman said it was worth keeping in mind that nationally, an increase in cases had been recognized by President Joe Biden. She noted the increasing transmission among individuals, even from outdoor events.

“We are not going to lower and slow the spread unless we take multiple steps to slow the spread,” she said. “With more lax behavior, we have seen the numbers steadily increase.”

Ultimately, Board of Health members supported a recommendation, rather than a mandate, for wearing masks when outdoors in gatherings exceeding 20 people.

In a city press release, Hoffman said besides vaccinations, wearing a mask is one of the most important steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Although we are weary and have mask fatigue, until we have a (greater than) 70% herd immunity, we need to be vigilant and wear masks, wash our hands and maintain social distancing,” she said.

The mandate will be reviewed every 30 days, using data collected through the Greenfield Health Department’s case data and contract tracing, the release states.

Per state mandate, residents are already required to wear a mask at all times when on public transportation.

Mary Byrne can be reached at Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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