As COVID-19 cases spike once more, local health officials are putting increased emphasis on face coverings — among the top tools for slowing the virus’ spread.
After all, higher quality options such as N95, KN95 and three-ply surgical masks have been shown to offer wearers greater protection against even the highly contagious omicron variant, according to USA TODAY.
The state Department of Public Health issued a mask advisory on Dec. 21 recommending — but not requiring — the use of face coverings indoors in public. (Masks are still mandated in some settings, including schools, hospitals and public transit.)
COVID mask guide: Why N95, KN95 masks are so much more effective than cloth
Last Tuesday, Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders told state legislators that Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is "not considering a universal mask mandate at this time."
The lack of state mandate has left individual communities to decide the issue of masking for themselves, resulting in a patchwork of policies across the state. In MetroWest, some cities and towns have mask mandates, some have advisories and some have no local policy at all.
Framingham was among several communities to recently issue mask mandates, with Mayor Charlie Sisitsky and the Board of Health issuing a joint order last Friday. The mandate includes all indoor businesses and facilities open to the public.
The BOH had declined to officially recommend a mandate just a few days prior, though both sitting members had said they would be in favor of one. Board Chair Dr. David Moore said a dramatic increase in the city’s COVID-19 cases last week prompted action.
He described the latest case surge as a “health emergency in our city.”
“If this mandate prevents one person from having to seek medical care from our severely overtaxed health care system right now, then I think we’ve done the right thing,” fellow board member Alexandra Rubin said.
She suggested the Board of Health review the city’s COVID-19 case data at its next meeting to determine wether to recommend altering the mandate or keeping it as is.
Want to know the face covering rules and restrictions in your community? Here’s a town-by-town breakdown of local mask policies:
Masks mandated in public indoor spaces
Natick (effective Monday)
Framingham (effective Wednesday)
Marlborough (effective Friday)
Masks advised in public
Note: The following towns also require masks in all municipal buildings.
Masks required only in municipal buildings (no local advisory)
Hopedale (masks required to attend in-person municipal meetings)
Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.
This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Mask mandates in MetroWest MA: What you need to know