The Massachusetts House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Health and Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery on Friday sent an email to Gov. Charlie Baker and top public health and safety officials in the administration calling for a ban on the use of tear gar, pepper spray and rubber bullets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They also asked for guidance for law enforcement and demonstrators on mitigating the risks of COVID-19 transmission at large public gatherings.
Sens. Julian Cyr and Jo Comerford and Reps. Marjorie Decker and John Mahoney signed the email, which highlighted "significant concerns that some tactics used by law enforcement are putting protesters at greater risk of contracting the virus."
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"Police tactics such as tear gas and pepper spray exacerbate the risk of COVID-19 transmission by prompting individuals to remove their masks, to cough and gasp for air. We have also seen video footage where onlookers are compelled to offer help to those who have been sprayed, for example, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission," the lawmakers wrote.
The group asked health officials to issue guidance directing protesters to wear a face covering, try to stay six feet away from others, self-monitor for symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 after being in a large group.
"We specifically request that guidance make clear that those seeking testing do NOT need to identify that they were at a protest but instead should simply indicate they have had close contact with someone who may have had COVID-19," the legislators wrote.