Residents of two Massachusetts cities will be required to wear a face covering when out in public starting later this week.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said the order, set to take effect Wednesday, is "necessary to help stop the transmission" of coronavirus and violators will be subject to a fine of $300. Officials in neighboring Cambridge later announced a similar order starting the same day and a fine of the same value.
In Somerville, the order will apply to anyone 2 or older. The Cambridge order impacts people over the age of 5.
"Not everyone who has COVID-19 shows symptoms. You can be carrying the virus and infecting others without knowing," Curtatone said. "Wearing a face covering is one way to avoid that."
After a one-week grace period, violators could face a hefty fine, Curtatone said.
"The police are committed to compassionate policing and will aim to first educate violators and issue warnings," the Somerville mayor said in a statement. "However, persons who willfully refuse to comply may be subject to a $300 fine."
Curtatone said the new order applies to indoor and outdoor public spaces, such as stores, shared entrances of multi-unit homes, sidewalks, streets, paths and public squares.
"An appropriate face covering is clean and covers your nose and mouth," Curtatone said. "In a pinch, a scarf, bandana, or any clean cloth will do."
The message followed Somerville's launch of a new community-wide testing program to protect residents against the coronavirus.
The new testing program, launched on Monday, includes widespread testing, contact tracing and safe social isolation for all its residents regardless of symptoms, insurance or immigration status, according to the city.
“Expanding testing to the whole community, including tracking, tracing, and safe social isolation, are the only way we can begin to safely think about re-opening our communities and economy,” said Curtatone.
The testing is happening at a drive-thru site next to Cambridge Health Alliance Somerville Hospital. It will soon will be open to people walking and bicycling.
"We cannot get ahead of this virus unless everybody, and I mean everybody, is tested," said Curtatone. "No matter who you are, or what kind of health coverage you have, you will be able to schedule a free test at the Somerville Hospital campus."
"Fortunately, last week, through a lot of assistance from the Department of Public Health, the Mass. Dept of Public Health, we were able to receive 3,500 swabs," said Dr. Assad Sayah of Cambridge Health Alliance.
More swabs are anticipated. A second satellite testing location will open in East Somerville.
The Crown Street parking lot at Somerville Hospital has been taking patients since Friday. Those who want a test are required to call 617-665-2928 to set up an appointment.