Somerville Requires Mask or Face Covering in All Indoor and Outdoor Public Spaces

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Order goes into effect Wednesday, April 29; Grace period will be granted to allow community time to comply

Monday, April 27, 2020
“It’s encouraging how many residents are already wearing masks, and we will work with understanding to help others do so as well.” –Chief of Police David Fallon

To help further slow the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and the Somerville Board of Health announced today that Somerville’s facial covering advisory will become mandatory. The new order requires anyone over the age of two to wear a clean face mask or face covering when in any indoor or outdoor space that is open to the public. The order, which has the unanimous support of the City Council, goes into effect on Wednesday, April 29, and a one-week grace period will be granted to allow the community time to comply.

“I know this feels strange for many of us, but it is the best way you can prevent yourself from inadvertently spreading coronavirus to others when you’re out in public,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Not everyone who has COVID-19 shows symptoms. You can be carrying the virus and infecting others without knowing. No one wants to be the one who infected the grocery store clerk, or the hardware store stocker, or the family out for a stroll. Wearing a mask is one way to avoid that.”

The order is based on safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also takes into account that with more than 80,000 residents in just 4.1 square miles, Somerville is the most densely populated city in New England, which makes protective and social distancing measures all the more critical.

“Wearing a mask is far more effective if everyone is doing it,” said City Council President Matt McLaughlin. “The effectiveness of face masks decreases significantly if someone infected with COVID-19 isn’t wearing a mask, even if others do wear masks. We need a collective buy-in from the public to stop the spread of infection.”

The City and the Somerville Police are aware that it may be a challenge for everyone to comply at all times, such as parents trying to keep masks on small children. The Police are committed to compassionate policing, and will seek first to educate members of the public about the face covering requirement wherever possible. As available, Officers will also carry masks to give to our most vulnerable residents such as persons experiencing homelessness or persons living with mental illness. However, after the one-week grace period, persons showing willful disregard, may be subject to a written warning or a $300 fine. Exceptions will be made for persons unable to medically tolerate a face covering.

“Ticketing for this is our last resort, but we do have to put public health first. So for those individuals who willfully fail to comply, we will reserve this option,” said Chief of Police David Fallon. “It’s encouraging how many residents are already wearing masks, and we will work with understanding to help others do so as well.”

“I hope that everyone who is able does the right thing and covers their face. But I want to remind the general public that it is not your job to enforce this order.” –Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone

Appropriate face coverings must cover the nose and mouth and be made from a clean material. Scarves, bandanas, or any piece of clean cloth, may be used. The Centers for Disease Control has suggestions for ways to make a face covering at home, including sew and no-sew options. There are also many tutorials on YouTube such as this no-sew mask bit.ly/3bRT2GU made from an old t-shirt. Meanwhile, the City will continue to prioritize distribution of any available masks to our most vulnerable residents.

“I hope that everyone who is able does the right thing and covers their face. But I want to remind the general public that it is not your job to enforce this order. Please just worry about yourself and your family,” said Mayor Curtatone. “I also know that there are members of our community who don’t feel safe wearing a face covering in public. We will do what we can to help make you feel more comfortable and I urge everyone in the community to do the same. Remember, if you see someone walking down the street with their face covered, they are doing what they are supposed to.”

Where must face coverings be worn?
Indoors, the order applies at any business open to the general public such as grocery stores, pharmacies, laundromats, hardware stores, and restaurant pickup sites. Face coverings must also be worn inside when in public common areas of multi-unit residences or commercial buildings such as entrances and public hallways.

Outside, face masks/coverings must be worn in or at all public spaces such as parks, sidewalks, streets, paths, squares, or outdoor commercial areas such as parking lots and outdoor premises of retail locations. Joggers and cyclists must adhere to the order along with pedestrians.

All open businesses must also display signs reminding anyone entering that they need to be wearing a face covering. While face masks can help control the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to remember it is an extra protection in addition to social distancing to help reduce transmission of the virus. Facial coverings do not make it safe for people to start congregating.

While the order does not require the use of face coverings on public transportation or in ride shares, because the City does not have authority to regulate these, it is strongly encouraged anyone using a shared means of transportation to wear one.

For more information and regular COVID-19 updates, visit http://www.somervillema.gov/Coronavirus and sign up for City alerts at http://www.somervillema.gov/Alerts. We urge you to sign up for every alert method you are able to receive: phone call, text, email. Also, follow FB.com/SomervilleCity and @SomervilleCity.

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