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Orange BOH reinstates mask mandate for businesses

  • FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2021 5:59:50 PM

ORANGE – The Board of Health voted this week to again require that face coverings be worn inside all businesses in town, citing the area’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Board members agreed the surge is the result of variants and community spread, leading to an immediate threat to public health and safety. The board simultaneously voted to support the Selectboard’s recent decision to temporarily close municipal buildings to the public, to strongly recommend all employers urge their employees to get vaccinated, and to strongly urge unvaccinated residents to receive vaccinations.

According to Orange Health Agent Matthew Fortier, there were 18 new cases of coronavirus in Orange as of Oct. 6, with an infection rate of 2.57 cases per day.

The Board of Health, in cooperation with Town Administrator Gabriele Voelker, Police Chief James Sullivan and Emergency Management Director James Young, issued a similar order in April 2020.

According to information from Fortier, anyone at least 5 years old and physically, mentally, and medically capable of wearing a face covering or mask that covers the mouth and nose must do so while shopping, working, or transacting at an indoor business when social distancing is impossible. Business owners must make a reasonable effort to ensure customers and employees are aware of and follow this measure.

Face coverings are not required while seated at a restaurant or bar or while swimming, and they may be removed “for skin or beard care that occurs on the face.”

Offering proof of a medical exemption to wearing a face covering or mask is not required, though businesses may refuse service to those declining to wear a face covering or mask for non-medical reasons.

According to Fortier, masks remain mandatory for everyone on public and private transportation systems (including ride shares, livery, taxi, ferries, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the commuter rail service and transportation stations), in health care facilities, and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations.

Orange businesspeople interviewed by the Greenfield Recorder said they accepted the health board’s mandate and don’t expect much pushback from customers.

Eleanor Dockstader, manager of Silver Therapeutics marijuana dispensary at 5 South Main St., said she has previously had to enforce mandates and the vast majority of customers have been respectful of it. She said it had the been store’s policy to require unvaccinated people to don masks indoors.

 Dockstader said two or three customers resisted the rule and instead were offered curbside service, which is available to anyone. The manager said, however, that curbside service is cash only. Debit cards are accepted inside, though regulations prohibit the purchase of cannabis with credit cards.

Lisa Sargent, owner of Cookies and Dreams Bakery at 90 New Athol Road, said she will enforce the mandate at her business, and she offers masks to customers who don’t have one. She said, however, she and her employees are vaccinated, making it frustrating to have to wear a mask.

“I understand (the order), but I don’t agree with people who are vaccinated having to wear masks,” she said. “I mean, what’s the point of being vaccinated if you’re going to throw a mask back on us?”

Sargent said she does not expect customers to give her trouble for enforcing the mandate, though she thinks it might anger people from neighboring towns that don’t have a similar mandate.

Michelle LeBlanc, operations manager at the Orange Innovation Center at 131 W Main St., said she posted the news onto the business incubator’s Facebook page and a mass email has been sent to the building’s tenants. She also said signs have been put up around the building.

“There’s not any pushback at all at this point,” she said Friday.

The Orange Board of Health posted the order to its Facebook page on Thursday and it had 101 comments by 2 p.m. Friday, with most venting frustration over the decision.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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