Somerville Strongly Recommends Indoor Masking; Reviewing Vaccination/Testing Requirement for City/School Staff
Increasing spread of Delta variant warrants increased vigilance
Given the increasing case numbers of COVID-19, both locally and nationally, due to the emergence of the Delta variant, and in light of the CDC’s updated guidance on masking, the City of Somerville is strongly recommending all people wear face coverings in indoor public settings regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against the virus. While vaccinated individuals have vastly better protection against being infected by the coronavirus and suffering severe COVID symptoms, it is still possible for them to get infected with and transmit the virus. This was demonstrated by a recent outbreak in Provincetown that featured numerous breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals.
All Somerville City buildings currently require staff and visitors to wear masks that cover their nose and mouth. Indoor masking of staff and students is also required for current summer programs in Somerville schools and is expected to continue for the return of full classes in the fall. While Middlesex County does not currently have substantial or high transmission rates of the coronavirus, the Delta variant is significantly more contagious than earlier variants of the virus. Suffolk County, located right next to Somerville, and Cape Cod, where many people visit during the summer, do qualify as higher transmission areas where the CDC is urging indoor masking in public spaces.
“This is about keeping coronavirus on a leash,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “The disease is spreading more easily. We still have a substantial number of people, including children, who’ve yet to be vaccinated against this virus. Wearing a face covering when you’re in indoor public settings will help prevent you from picking up this virus and spreading it around. We have worked hard to reach the point we’re at where we can get out and do most everything we did before this pandemic hit. In order to keep that going, we’re going to need people to take basic precautions like wearing a mask indoors. It’s something we’ve all done and it’s not a difficult thing to do. It’s a basic preventative measure that can make a real difference.”
Currently in Massachusetts the disease is spreading quickest among those ages 20-39.
“We’re not cutting back at this moment on what people can do and we’d like to avoid that,” Curtatone said. “Just recognize how to do things safely in public settings. There are people of all ages with assorted health conditions for whom this disease poses a real threat and the simple act of wearing a mask when you’re inside a public space can help prevent this disease from spreading to them. If case numbers keep trending in the wrong direction, we will consider an indoor mask mandate to keep our community safe.”
The threat posed by the Delta variant also underscores the necessity for those still in need of a vaccination to get one immediately. As of last week, 54,520 Somerville residents (72% of the city’s total population) were fully vaccinated and 58,790 (78%) had received at least one dose.
“The vaccines are proving to be highly effective in preventing serious cases of COVID-19, even with the variants,” said Somerville’s Health and Human Services Director Doug Kress. “That is why it is vital for everyone to get their vaccine. There are still tens of thousands of people locally and more than 150 million people nationally who do not have this protection just as a highly contagious variant threatens to cause a new round of outbreaks. Until we have the overwhelming majority of our population vaccinated, the potential for this virus to do serious harm will persist.”
Vaccine Requirements for City and School Staff Under Consideration
Additionally, Mayor Curtatone and the City’s Incident Command Structure (ICS) team are considering a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all City and school employees. It is being reviewed as a basic protocol for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
“The vaccines have proven safe and effective,” Curtatone said. “We are a public entity, and with that comes the expectation that we will play a leading role on public health issues. We haven’t reached a final determination at this moment, but it is important that we make it known the matter is receiving serious consideration.”
Factors such as the threat posed by emerging variants will be weighed in making the final decision, and input from departments and unions is being gathered.
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.