Concord Board of Health Strongly Advises Wearing Masks in Indoor Public Settings
Sept. 27, 2021
The Concord Board of Health again strongly advises that everyone wear a face covering while indoors in public settings. The Board strongly encourages all businesses—including retail, fitness, personal care and office buildings –to require staff and patrons to wear face coverings while indoors, especially when 6 ft. of distance between persons cannot be maintained, except when eating or drinking.
Why are face coverings still important?
Almost all cases of COVID in Massachusetts are now due to the Delta variant of the virus. The Delta variant is much more contagious and spreads more than twice as easily from one person to another, compared with earlier strains of the virus. Individuals infected with the Delta variant tend to have more virus in their respiratory tracts than other variants and infected individuals may carry the virus for a longer period.
Concord has seen a large increase in COVID cases beginning in mid-July, due to the Delta variant. From July 1 through September 22, Concord has had 134 COVID cases (compared to 21 cases in May and 1 case in June). 29 of these cases were in children less than age 12 who are not vaccinated. Of the remaining 105 cases, 88 were in fully vaccinated individuals. 19 new cases were diagnosed in the past week.
Many Concord residents remain vulnerable to infection. Children under age 12 are still unable to be vaccinated. Seniors and others may have medical conditions that predispose them to disease that is more serious. Wearing a mask protects both the wearer and others in the community who are vulnerable to disease.
The CDC recommends that everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, in areas with “Substantial” and “High” COVID transmission rates, should wear a mask in indoor public settings to help prevent spread of Delta and protect others. Middlesex County is currently at High Risk of COVID transmission, and all Massachusetts counties are now at High or Substantial Risk for transmission.
Why isn’t the Board of Health mandating face coverings?
The Board of Health recognizes that mask mandates are controversial. In making its decision not to issue an order requiring face coverings indoors, the Board considered MDPH data specific to Concord, which shows the town has a lower incidence of COVID-19 cases and lower test positivity rate than many other towns in Middlesex County. Concord also has a high vaccination rate, which helps prevent the spread of the disease and reduces the severity of COVID in vaccinated individuals, Instead of requiring face coverings, the Board is asking the Concord community to be aware of the disease situation and to behave responsibly by wearing masks indoors to help protect themselves and others and prevent the spread of COVID. Know that MDPH data is continually monitored, and if necessary, the Board of Health will reconsider the need for a mask mandate.
The Board of Health strongly supports the decision by the Concord School Committee to require everyone to wear masks indoors at school. This is especially important in schools where 6 ft. of distance between people can often not be maintained, and a significant number of school-aged population remain unvaccinated. Although there have been several new COVID cases in schoolchildren since the start of the school year, there is no evidence of transmission between students in school; cases appear to be related to activities occurring outside of school hours.
Personal choices about behavior and activities are also very important in helping stop the spread of COVID. Everyone, even vaccinated individuals, should be thoughtful and careful about attending crowded indoor spaces (public and private) where respiratory viruses spread more easily. Please give careful consideration to the indoor activities children participate in outside of school hours. The Board urges the Concord community to do all it can to prevent disease and help keep our schools open for in-person learning. Wearing masks indoors will also help our stores and restaurants stay open. The Board appreciates Concord’s high vaccination rate and residents’ strong adherence to public health best practices.
The Concord Board of Health endorses recommendations from other public health entities about wearing face coverings indoors.
- Everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, in areas with “Substantial” and “High” COVID transmission rates, should wear a mask in indoor public settings to help prevent spread of Delta and protect others.
- Unvaccinated individuals should wear face coverings when in public indoor settings.
- Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated. This includes parents who have unvaccinated children at home.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
- Public school students (age 5 and above) and staff in all grades are required to wear masks indoors in schools (with some limited exceptions). The mask requirement will be in place until at least October 1, 2021 and will be reviewed periodically thereafter.
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- All students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use).