Easthampton issues downtown mask order

  • This map shows some of the areas where face coverings must be worn at all times in publicly accessible outdoor areas, due to a new Board of Health Order. Contributed Image—

Staff Writer
Published: 8/20/2020 7:27:23 PM
Modified: 8/20/2020 7:27:11 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Anyone walking downtown or in the mill district in a publicly accessible area needs to wear a mask or cloth face covering at all times, following a new Board of Health order.

“I hope that it’s successful,” said Board of Health Chairwoman Maggie Hebert.

The order, approved Wednesday, mandates face coverings in both areas of the city, as well as on all city property and public parks and the Manhan Rail Trail.

Additionally, everyone on a sidewalk outside of those areas must have a mask or face covering on their person, to be used when social distancing is not possible.

Hebert said she has seen people waiting outside restaurants and not wearing masks downtown, and she also noted that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to maintain social distance when on a sidewalk.

Hebert also said the city has gotten a lot of complaints about people not wearing masks on the bike path.

People in these areas will not have to cover their faces if they’re sitting down to eat, and those with certain medical conditions will be exempt. Children below the age of 2 should not wear face coverings, while children between 2 and 5 should wear face coverings at the discretion of their parents or guardians.

Fines for violating the order are $50 for a first offense, $150 for a second offense and $300 for subsequent offenses.

But, city Health Agent Bri Eichstaedt said, “Our intention and our goal is not to ticket people.”

Most of the time, she said, enforcement will involve education, not ticketing.

“Agents of the board are going to use common sense and discretion,” Eichstaedt said.

She also said that the order is getting pushback online, with the overwhelming number of responses being negative.

Eichstaedt noted that Easthampton was one of the three communities in all of western Massachusetts earning a yellow designation from the state, meaning the city has a daily average of 4 to 8 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 over a two-week period, in the state’s community risk report released Wednesday, The average daily case rate for Easthampton during this period was given as 4 per 100,000, and the city’s two-week case count is 9.

“It’s a proactive and also a reactive thing,” Eichstaedt said of the order. “We’re not in the clear.”

Holyoke has also been designated as a yellow community, while South Hadley, with an average daily case rate of 11.1 per 100,000, was designated red this week.

Those who would like a mask can contact the Easthampton Health Department by calling 413-529-1400 or by emailing health@easthamptonma.gov and requesting one.

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