Somerville Requires Mask or Face Covering in All Indoor and Outdoor Public Spaces
Order goes into effect Wednesday, April 29; Grace period will be granted to allow community time to comply
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?
Face coverings or masks must be worn in all public indoor and outdoor spaces in Somerville. Persons who cannot wear a mask or face covering for medical reasons, which includes disability, are exempt from this order. Medical exemptions will be allowed based on the honor system. You do not need to carry a doctor's note.
Indoors - Face coverings or masks must be worn at any business open to the general public such as grocery stores, pharmacies, laundromats, hardware stores, and restaurant pickup sites. All open businesses must display signs reminding anyone entering that they need to be wearing a face covering. 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.
On Public Transportation & in Ride Shares - In accordance with the statewide order, MBTA customers over the age of 2 must wear face coverings when using the MBTA, including when in an enclosed or semi-enclosed transit stop or waiting area. Face coverings are also required in taxis and ride shares.
While face coverings 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.
Why do I need to wear a face covering?
The CDC advises wearing a simple cloth face covering over your nose and mouth in public as an additional public health measure. It is now understood that the virus can spread between people who are interacting in close proximity even if neither person is showing symptoms. Wearing a cloth face covering can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others. However, wearing a face covering is not a replacement for social distancing. Social distancing remains the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus, so it is still important to remain at least 6 feet away from people who are not part of your household, even when wearing a face covering.
Where can I get a mask or face covering? Can I make my own?
Face coverings may be any clean cloth that covers your nose and mouth, including scarves or bandanas. Simple face coverings can be made quite easily with things you already have in your home.
The CDC also offers several simple options that can be sewn or made without sewing. Cotton bandanas or T-shirts can be cut or folded to fashion a face covering. Multiple layers of fabric with a tight weave will be most effective. To check your fabric, hold it up to the light to see how much light comes through. Try to choose a fabric that lets less light through.
The CDC recommends that face coverings
- Fit snugly against the side of your face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Use multiple layers of fabric
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be machine washable and dryer safe
For more quick and easy ways to make a cloth face covering, check out the following video tutorials:
- The Surgeon General shows how to make a simple covering with a t-shirt or cloth and rubber bands
- Tutorial for a quick, no-sew reusable face covering from a t-shirt
The City continues to source masks and distribute them to our most vulnerable residents as they’re available.
As a reminder, the face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are crucial supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.
Do I need to wear a face covering while exercising outdoors?
Yes. A face covering must be worn whenever you are in a public space in Somerville, including when you are running or cycling. Remember to also stay at least 6 feet from others while exercising outdoors. Consider changing your route, schedule, or activity if maintaining social distance is challenging.
Why did the guidance on face coverings change?
The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public based on new evidence that people without obvious symptoms can spread the coronavirus. It is now understood that the virus can spread between people who are interacting in close proximity even if neither person is showing symptoms. Wearing a cloth face covering can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others in addition to other measures like social distancing and frequent hand washing. Additional guidance can be found on the CDC’s website.
How can I handle my face covering safely?
After use, immediately place your face covering in the laundry (or garbage if using a disposable mask). Be careful not to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. When removing your mask or face covering. Wash your hands immediately after use.
How should I clean my cloth face covering?
It is important to keep your face covering clean. Cloth face coverings should be cleaned frequently, ideally after each use, and can be cleaned and dried with your other laundry. Cloth face coverings can also be hand washed with detergent and water in the sink if needed. Cloth face coverings should be fully dry before using again.
Is anyone exempt from the face covering requirement?
Yes. The Somerville order requiring face coverings in public only applies to individuals older than two years old. Anyone who cannot wear a face covering for a medical reason, including disability, is also exempt from the requirement. Additionally, a face covering should never be put on someone who cannot remove it. Medical exemptions will be allowed based on the honor system. You do not need to carry a doctor's note.
Officials also understand it may be challenging for everyone to comply at all times, especially young children. Parents and caregivers are asked to make a good faith effort and do their best to help kids acclimate to wearing face coverings in public settings. Enforcement will focus on public education wherever possible. However, persons who can comply with the order and are showing willful disregard for the requirement may be subject to a written warning or $300 fine.
What should I do if I see someone who isn’t wearing a face covering in public?
If you see someone in public without a face covering it could be due to an underlying health issue. Please do not make assumptions about others. The Police and City officials will be educating members of the public about the face covering requirement and enforcing the requirement when necessary. Please leave monitoring and enforcement to public officials.
Tips for Parents
Starting on Wednesday, April 29, everyone over the age of two is required to wear a face covering or mask when in public. The age requirement was informed by guidance issued by the CDC and the MA DPH. We understand wearing face coverings may take some getting used to, especially for younger children. The fines are a last resort for the people who can comply with the order and refuse to do so. We ask that parents and caregivers make a good faith effort and do their best to help kids acclimate to wearing face coverings in public settings.
Face coverings will also be a key part of our plans to eventually begin relaxing restrictions in the future. Wearing masks in public may become the new normal for some time, so we should work collectively to wear our own masks and normalize the behavior as much as possible.
If your children are not excited about wearing a face covering, consider trying one of these tips:
- Explain that wearing a face covering is important to help keep their neighbors and community safe. There is a lot that is out of our control during this pandemic, but we can all do our part to wear a face covering to help keep our community safe.
- For kids that are worried about wearing a face covering, try practicing wearing face coverings at home first to get them more comfortable with the idea.
- Make it fun - Have your child choose or decorate their face covering to make it something that feels more personalized and positive. Show pictures of other kids wearing masks. Encourage them to make a face covering for a favorite doll or stuffed animal.
- Model good behavior - Set a good example by always wearing your own face covering when in public.
- Set clear boundaries - Empathize with them, but stay firm in the rules.
For more information and regular COVID-19 updates, visit www.somervillema.gov/Coronavirus and sign up for City alerts at 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.