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Sign of the times: Cover your face or pay a fine, city warns

  • Mark Scheel, who works for the Northampton Department of Public Works, hangs a sign stating that face coverings must be worn and that violators are subject to a $300 fine, Wednesday, May 20, 2020 on Main Street. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mark Scheel, who works for the Northampton Department of Public Works, hangs a sign stating that face coverings must be worn and that violators are subject to a $300 fine, Wednesday, May 20, 2020 on Main Street. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mark Scheel, who works for the Northampton Department of Public Works, hangs a sign stating that face coverings must be worn and that violators are subject to a $300 fine, Wednesday, May 20, 2020 on Main Street. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mark Scheel, who works for the Northampton Department of Public Works, hangs a sign stating that face coverings must be worn and that violators are subject to a $300 fine, Wednesday, May 20, 2020 on Main Street. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2020 12:42:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — From far away, it may look like a new metal traffic sign, but upon closer inspection it has an icon of a mask on it.

“FACE COVERINGS MUST BE WORN HERE,” the sign reads, noting that scarfs, bandanas or cloth masks qualify as coverings. “VIOLATORS ARE SUBJECT TO $300 FINE.” 

Dozens of signs were put in downtown Northampton and in city parks, and next week, more will be installed in Florence Center and on the bike path, said Mayor David Narkewicz.

“We wanted to put these up as part of reminding and educating people in these high-traffic areas,” Narkewicz said. “We know the weather is getting nice, and people will want to go into these areas.”

In total, the project includes 84 aluminum signs and 35 lawns signs and costs about $5,000, according to Narkewicz. 

As of last week, masks or other facial coverings must be worn in most public places in the city, including downtown, Florence Center, all parks and recreational areas, on any bike path or multipurpose trail, and in public places “where one cannot reasonably expect to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from all other persons at all times,” states an order from the Health Department.

Previously, Gov. Charlie Baker mandated all residents must wear facial coverings in public places where they can’t maintain social distance, but locally, there was confusion over which locations were included. Some people weren’t wearing masks in popular outdoor areas, thinking they could stay 6 feet away from others, but that’s not always possible, the mayor’s office said last week. 

John Kramer and Priscilla Glezen, weekend visitors to Northampton from northern New Jersey, didn’t notice the new downtown signs, but they were struck by how many people were wearing masks in the streets.

“People are very compliant,” Kramer said, while waiting outside Jake’s for takeout Friday morning. Walking around the Smith College campus, where Glezen is an alumna, she was impressed that even joggers were wearing masks. 

He noted that people aren’t as careful in their home state. “New Jersey is like the Wild West,” Kramer said. 

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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