By Bob Katzen
Reps. Jon Santiago (D-Boston), Mindy Domb (D-Amherst) and Christina Minicucci (D-North Andover) filed a bill last week that would require every person in Massachusetts to wear a face covering when in any indoor or outdoor public setting, including any building open to the public, elevators, hospitals, doctor’s and dentist’s office; while using public transportation, any taxi or ride-sharing vehicles; at outdoors public spaces including public parks, streets, sidewalks or recreation areas when a distance of at least six feet cannot be maintained by any non-household member.
Individuals would be allowed to remove their masks when seated at a restaurant or other food establishment while eating or drinking if a distance of at least six feet is maintained from other tables. They could also remove the mask when engaged in exercise activities and when in an outdoor public area as long as the six feet distance from non-household members is maintained.
The measure exempts children under the age of two years old; persons with a medical condition, a breathing problem, mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering or prevents them from removing it without assistance, as long as medical documentation can be readily verified. The ban would stay in effect until the end of the governor’s COVID-19 State of Emergency.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) commissioner and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, would be required to create and oversee a process to distribute cloth face coverings to local Emergency Management directors or local health officers for use by municipal employees and residents.
The mandate would be enforced by local boards of health and first-time violators of the ban would be given a written warning followed by a civil penalty of up to $100 for each subsequent violation.
The state would be required to post a travel advisory at all points of entry into Massachusetts, including airports, maritime ports, bus and train stations and digital electronic highway signs. The advisory would state that all travelers entering Massachusetts from a state with a COVID-19 positivity rate of 5 percent or higher will be required to quarantine for a period of 14 days.
Other provisions prioritize COVID-19 testing for vulnerable populations, whether or not they have symptoms; institute enforceable workplace safety standards during reopening to protect workers, customers and communities; and bolster the capacity of local boards of health.
“The last eight months have been incredibly challenging for our commonwealth and our country,” co-sponsor Santiago who is also a doctor. “As a frontline healthcare provider who treated patients throughout the entirety of Boston’s COVID-19 surge, I have seen loss beyond measure and don’t want us to forfeit our hard-earned progress. Now is the time to double down on strategies that mitigate transmission and allow for a safe reopening.”
The other two co-sponsors Reps. Domb and Minicucci did not respond to repeated e-mails from Beacon Hill Roll Call asking them to comment on the proposal.