Town Of Amherst And UMass Adopt Indoor Mask Requirements



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At its meeting on Thursday night (8/12), the Amherst Board of Health adopted an order requiring the wearing of masks or face coverings in all public indoor spaces and private indoor spaces in the Town of Amherst that are open to the public. The order goes into effect on August 18, 2021 at 8:00 a.m.

Acting Health Director Jennifer Brown provided data to the Board of Health that showed an increasing number of cases in the town.  As of Friday, August 18, the town’s covid dashboard reported 16 active cases in town, up from three at this time last month.

The order will remain in effect until the Amherst Health Director determines through local and regional metrics that the risk of COVID-19 spread is significantly diminished. Data will be reviewed continuously and the decisions on continuation or rescinding the order will be done using two week data trends.

“During all of July, the Town had only three confirmed cases per week. However, in the past three weeks, there have been 17 total, including at least four of the delta variant,” Brown stated. “The order was adopted to protect public health and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the Town of Amherst,” she added.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said, “This is a prudent action taken by the Health Department. We all know the delta variant is highly transmissible, even among those who are vaccinated. Our goal is to ensure the health of the most vulnerable members of our community and a mask mandate is the best tool we have to minimize the spread.”

Public indoor spaces and private indoor spaces open to the public include all places in the Town of Amherst into which members of the public are invited or otherwise allowed to enter a building or structure to interact with any persons in order to transact any public or private business. This includes, but is not limited to: restaurants, bars, hotels and motels, gym and fitness clubs during all activities including strenuous activity, salons and barber shops, places of worship and performance and event venues.

Music performers who are singing and/or playing brass or wind instruments are not required to wear face coverings but must adhere to social distancing of at least 10 feet from any member of the public when performing indoors. Under the order, all persons over the age of five must wear a face mask when they are in any indoor space accessible to the public, unless one or more specified exceptions apply. The use of face masks or coverings by children between the ages of two years and five years is at the discretion of the child’s parent or guardian. Children under the age of two years must not wear face masks or coverings due to the potential risk of suffocation.  

Masks must be worn at all times in public indoor spaces and private indoor spaces open to the public, whether individuals are vaccinated or not and no matter what the distances are between one person and others. Nothing in the order eliminates the need to reduce or eliminate the requirement of maintaining safe distancing of at least 6 feet from other people, excluding members of the same household. A face mask or covering is anything that covers an individual’s nose and mouth including but not limited to cloth face masks, dust masks, scarves, and bandanas. 

Exceptions include restaurant patrons who are eating or drinking, children five and under, singers standing 10 feet away from others, and anyone with a medical excuse. The board gave Brown the authority to finalize the language and make any necessary adjustments to the policy after it takes effect.

An outdoor mask mandate, which was in place in Amherst from August 2020 through mid-May 2021, is not currently under consideration; nor are new occupancy limits for public spaces.

Click here to view a PDF of the Board of Health Mandate

New mask mandates are proliferating across the commonwealth and around the nation as COVID-19 case counts tick up nearly everywhere and with greatest intensity in regions with the lowest vaccine rates. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that Hampshire County now has a “substantial” level of community transmission of COVID-19. The level was raised from “moderate” on Thursday due to a case rate of 53 per 100,000 people in the past 7 days. The rest of Massachusetts was already at the “substantial” or “high” level.

Amherst Schools Adopt Mask Mandate
In a letter to Amherst district parents dated August 10, 2021,  School Superintendent Michael Morris announced that face coverings will be required indoors and on buses for all Amherst Regional Schools students, faculty and staff.  That letter can be read here.

UMass Adopts Indoor Mask Mandate and Vaccination Requirement
Effective August 11, all members of the UMass community — students, faculty and staff —as well as contractors and visitors are required to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces on the UMass Amherst campus. The requirements applies to vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. Face coverings must be worn in nearly all indoor public spaces, including classrooms, hallways, elevators, restrooms, break rooms, entries and exits to buildings, laboratories, meeting rooms, shared offices and work areas, residence halls, dining halls (when not eating) and the campus recreation center.

Face coverings are not required:

  • in personal offices when alone
  • in research spaces when alone
  • when eating in the dining halls or other campus eateries
  • in residence hall rooms
  • outdoors
  • for children under the age of 2
  • for anyone with a medical condition that prevents the use of a face covering

UMass Vaccine and Testing Requirements
UMass students who intend to live, learn, or conduct research on campus or access campus resources this fall are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Students are considered fully vaccinated under these conditions: two weeks after your second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Students and employees who are vaccinated are not required to test regularly for COVID-19. Students granted medical or religious exemptions from vaccination are required to be tested twice weekly if they are teaching, conducting research, learning or visiting on campus. Faculty and staff granted medical or religious exemptions are required to be tested weekly. Optional asymptomatic testing is available to all members of the campus community and the general public at their discretion. Symptomatic testing is available through University Health Services. In addition, individuals will soon be able to obtain a COVID test kit from the Public Health Promotion Center, conduct a test at home and then drop off the kit at designated kiosks across campus. Details will be forthcoming.

More information on UMass COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics can be found here.

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