Concord Board of Health Reiterates Strong Advisory to Wear Masks in Indoor Public Settings
December 15, 2021
The Concord Board of Health 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. The Board supports all businesses that decide to require masks for staff and customers.
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. As Omicron emerges as a variant of concern, know that the Board of Health is continually monitoring MDPH data and, if necessary, the Board of Health will reconsider the need for a mask mandate.
What do we know about the Omicron variant of the virus?
As of December 14, Massachusetts has 16 known cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID virus. The Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant. Omicron is believed to be 3 times more likely to cause infection among household members than other variants. It is not yet known whether the Omicron variant causes more or less severe illness than the Delta variant. CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms. Although Delta is currently the main variant circulating in Massachusetts, cases of Omicron are expected to increase across Massachusetts and the nation in coming weeks. The CDC Omicron webpage is updated frequently with new information as it emerges.
Will vaccines work against Omicron? CDC says current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
Why are face coverings important?
In updated guidance released on December 6, the CDC reiterates the importance of community use of masks to help prevent the spread of COVID.
Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets by the wearer (“source control”), which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others (estimated to account for more than 50% of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions). Masks also help reduce inhalation of these droplets by the wearer (“filtration for wearer protection”). The community benefit of masking for SARS-CoV-2 control is due to the combination of these two; individual prevention benefit increases with increasing numbers of people using masks consistently and correctly.
The Concord Board of Health endorses the following CDC recommendations:
- 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 COVID and protect others. All Massachusetts counties are currently in the High transmission category.
- 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.