By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
For those who have not gotten their COVID-19 vaccine, a mask will soon be required at municipal buildings.
At the Board of Health meeting on Aug. 24, Town Manager Michael Borg said that he intends to establish a policy that would require masks for those that have not received their vaccinations. He said that after conferring with Town Counsel that this is something he can do on his own, but asked for the support of the board before proceeding. The board later voted unanimously to do so.
“We’ve lost 36 residents,” said Borg, referring to the deaths over the last year and a half attributed to COVID. “There has been a price we all paid.”
The policy would only affect offices such as Town Hall, not the schools. However, earlier on Tuesday the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education authorized the Commissioner of Education to enact a mask mandate for all public school students over the age of 5, teachers, and visitors through Oct. 1. If at least 80 percent of students and staff in middle/high schools have been vaccinated, the mandate would be lifted for those persons after Oct. 1. Unvaccinated students and staff would still be required to wear masks.
Proof of vaccination would not be required for those entering the town’s offices unmasked.
Borg said that there has been a lot of changing information over the last year and a half, with some saying masks shouldn’t be worn and others that they should. He cited the early goal of “flattening the curve” and that when the lockdown took place, it would only be for two weeks among the different approaches and information given.
Borg’s policy cited the town’s COVID transmission rate of 4.08 percent. At this time more than 100 cases have been reported in August, and there are 34 active infections. The Mass Department of Public Health lists communities with a transmission rate of 5 percent or higher as Red—a designation for those with the highest transmission rates.
“It is the one number I have today,” he said.
Borg referenced the recent outbreak of COVID cases in Provincetown, during which hundreds of cases were reported. He said that after a mask mandate went into effect, cases began to drop.
“I’ve received a pretty significant number of emails the last week,” said Borg. “All of those were in support of masks in one form or another.”
The board also visited the question of a town-wide mask mandate. At this time one does not exist, and Borg said he does not intend to ask for it. He said that several businesses are requiring masks of their patrons, but that North Attleborough’s positivity rate doesn’t warrant a town-wide mandate.
The board voted unanimously to grant the town manager the authority to enact a mask requirement in consultation with public health officials.
“I would support this in the event of a rapid spiral,” said Borg.