An indoor mask mandate went into effect Monday in Brookline, Massachusetts, for all schools and other town-owned indoor spaces.
Every individual will now be required to wear a face-covering over their mouth and nose while indoors, including at Town Hall, the library, the senior center, all Brookline Public School buildings and any other town-owned indoor space where the public gathers. Private businesses may also choose to follow suit.
“It’s a small thing to do to protect yourself and others,” Brookline resident Tricia Marks said, citing rising cases in Massachusetts. “I am very glad because it was rising pretty quickly, and staying close to 10%, which is not good.”
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Town officials decided to take the step because COVID-19 cases have been rising steadily in Massachusetts in recent weeks. Most of the state now falls under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "high risk" category, including Norfolk, Suffolk and Middlesex Counties.
“It does send a signal to the community that hey maybe this is a good idea to be doing this again,” Tufts Medical Center's Dr. Brian Chow said.
With all of Eastern Massachusetts in the CDC’s high-risk transmission category, Chow said targeted mitigation measures like masks in public buildings will help reduce the spread of COVID-19, while not taking it so far that people push back.
“This is not a sweeping recommendation at all,” Chow said. "It’s very limited to certain spaces, but it does send that signal that we should be thinking about it.”
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts schools shot up significantly, with 17,423 students and staff members testing positive last week.
The Brookline Advisory Council on Public Health reviewed case data among Brookline Public School students and staff, and compared those rates to other school districts in Massachusetts that did not lift mask requirements. The group determined that a temporary reinstatement would be an important mitigation measure to limit disease spread and reduce disruptions due to student and staff absenteeism.
“I think it’s good they have the kids’ best safety in mind, but I’m not sure it’s necessary," Brookline parent Andrew Collins said.
Brookline Health Commissioner Sigalle Reiss said the town will reassess the need for masking weekly by reviewing county- and town-wide COVID-19 case numbers, community transmission risk and other data.
"We consistently look at COVID-19 data trends and hope this is a short-term requirement following CDC guidance for counties designated as high risk," Reiss said. "The Department will lift the mask requirement once Norfolk County drops to the CDC moderate or low COVID-19 risk levels, or Brookline-specific data suggests that we are no longer in a surge."