Officials in Worcester, Massachusetts, announced Friday that they are issuing a citywide mask mandate that will take effect on Monday, Sept. 20.
Masks will be required indoors at all private businesses in the city, City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said. City employees will also be required to be vaccinated or be tested weekly effective Nov. 1.
The mask mandate applies to those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated. Exceptions include eating or drinking indoors or receiving personal services like haircuts.
An emergency order is also being issued requiring employers to report positive COVID cases in their workplace to the Board of Health.
The mask mandate comes following a rise in coronavirus cases in Massachusetts' second-largest city in recent weeks. Worcester has now seen 10 consecutive weeks of increases in cases, including 510 new cases and two new deaths in the past week.
"The numbers are clear and the trend is real. COVID is still with us," Augustus said. "The delta variant is the dominant strain and it is striking us with a vengeance. Unfortunately, that has forced us to make some difficult decisions."
The seven-day average of new cases in Worcester is 78 a day, over four times the seven-day average on Aug. 1 of 18 cases a day.
"We are now firmly in the third wave of COVID-19," Mayor Joseph Petty said. "The delta variant is exactly as contagious as expected. We are all paying for the decisions of the unvaccinated."
"To be clear, we are in a battle," Augustus added. "That's not hyperbole. We're in a battle with an enemy that is well equipped to inflict serious damage and has already done so."