Northampton Board of Health lifts most COVID restrictions

  • A box of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vials on display during a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in Longwood, Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) Joe Burbank

Staff Writer
Published: 5/26/2021 9:36:13 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city will declare an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency and lift nearly all pandemic-related restrictions for vaccinated individuals on Saturday, the Board of Health announced Wednesday.

With the announcement, Northampton joins other communities deciding to follow state guidance to drop most emergency restrictions May 29.

Once these restrictions are lifted, vaccinated residents will no longer need to wear masks in most outdoor or indoor settings, with some exceptions: Masks will still be required in health care facilities; congregate care settings; public and other shared transportation; and in preschool through secondary education buildings, though outdoor activities will not require masks.

The city will not require proof of vaccination to enter businesses or municipal buildings without a mask.

But in all other indoor settings, including businesses and grocery stores, masks will no longer be required. Earlier this month, the city announced that individuals no longer need to mask when they’re outdoors and able to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others.

The upcoming shift is “a recognition that all the hard work of residents in our community — and obviously of medical professionals and public health professionals — to keep everyone safe, wear our masks, get infection rates low, and get vaccinated, has paid off,” said Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz.

“There are still folks who need to get the vaccine,” Narkewicz said, “There are still folks at risk, and we want to continue to protect them. But I’m feeling optimistic and relieved, and just grateful that our community has gotten through this … not without having cases of COVID, and more sadly, we’ve had deaths from COVID here in Northampton. But on the whole, we’ve been able to get through it really well.”

According to the city's weekly COVID-19 dashboard, Northampton recorded 23 new, confirmed COVID-19 cases between May 6 and May 19 and had eight active cases. Per capita, 53% are fully vaccinated, and 17% of residents have been partially vaccinated. Over the course of the pandemic, the city has recorded 1,206 confirmed cases and 90 deaths.

Residents who have yet to be fully vaccinated are instructed to continue wearing masks in most public settings.

An announcement from the Public Health Department also states wearing a mask “is a personal choice each person must make according to what is best for their own comfort and health situation,” and that some individuals, such as those who have severe immunosuppression, should continue wearing masks and taking other precautions against COVID-19.

Even after restrictions are lifted, the department advises residents to stay home and get tested if they experience possible COVID-19 symptoms. Officials also advise quarantining after a positive COVID-19 test; avoiding large gatherings in small, poorly ventilated spaces; wearing masks when indoors with people outside of their household; and getting vaccinated.

“We look forward to this well-deserved next step toward our ‘new normal’ world where we all know how to respond to serious public health emergencies and have a greater awareness about how all infections spread throughout our community,” the Board of Health said in a statement.

“It is the hope of the Northampton Board of Health that we emerge from this pandemic as a community and nation with the knowledge and skills to prevent future infectious disease from having such a profound effect on our society,” the statement continues, and that together we will continue to build toward a safe and healthy future.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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