With COVID-19 health indicators improving, the City of Somerville Board of Health has voted to end Somerville’s face covering mandate for indoor public spaces. Effective Saturday, March 5, the City will no longer require masks in privately owned indoor locations such as restaurants, stores, theaters, and gyms. Businesses, however, remain free to maintain their own mask requirements to best serve their health and safety needs.
Federal and State requirements still apply for masking in certain settings such as mass transit, rideshares, medical settings, and adult daycare. For the near future, masks are also still required in City and public school buildings. The Administration and the School Committee are currently reviewing mask requirements, respectively, and decisions are forthcoming.
The Board of Health’s decision to lift the mask mandate is in line with new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More people nationally are now vaccinated, and, as a result, serious cases and the COVID-19 burden on healthcare providers are declining. The CDC now determines COVID-19 risk levels based on hospitalization data and the number of new cases. On March 4, according to the CDC tracker, all but one county in Massachusetts (Hampshire) falls into the low-risk category.
Persons who are immunocompromised or at higher risk of severe illness, and those who live with or spend time with them, may wish to continue masking in indoor settings or during visits. The CDC outlines mask and other safety guidance for higher-risk persons for different community risk levels and encourages consultation with your healthcare provider. Persons at higher risk for severe illness include seniors, persons with underlying health conditions, pregnant or recently pregnant people, and people who are not vaccinated.
“As we shift into this new phase of the pandemic, let’s respect and have compassion for the fact that each of us will make choices according to our own comfort level and health status. So while the City is no longer requiring masks, some may still wish to mask for their own protection or for others who remain at higher risk. And some may just need more time to make this transition. Together, we will find our way forward, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” said Mayor Katjana Ballantyne.
“The good news is that the Omicron surge continues to decline, the majority of eligible Somervillians are vaccinated, and mounting research shows that being up to date on your vaccines offers strong protection against serious illness,” added the Mayor. “So we will take this next step based on the data, the science, and the guidance, as we continue to help residents who remain without protection to get vaccinated.”