Northampton expands public mask mandate to workplaces, outdoor gatherings

  • Mark Scheel, of the Northampton Department of Public Works, hangs a sign stating that masks must be worn and that violators are subject to a fine on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, on Main Street. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2021

NORTHAMPTON — Citing a threefold increase in the city’s COVID-19 case rate over the past several weeks, the Board of Health has expanded the public mask mandate to include more indoor and outdoor locations, beginning on Monday.

In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the board added indoor workplaces, off-field seating areas for athletes and outdoor food service areas to the list of places where virtually all members of the public, regardless of vaccincation status, must wear a snugly fitting mask over their mouth and nose.

The mask mandate — in effect from the spring of 2020 to May 2021 — was reinstated Aug. 9 in response to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, but it applied only to certain indoor public spaces including businesses, places of worship and event venues.

Since then, “the 14-day incident rate of COVID-19 infection in Northampton has increased from 3.9 cases per day per 100,000 people up to 12 cases per day per 100,000 people,” the Northampton Health Department said in a statement announcing the new requirements. In that time, the local level of community transmission also has risen from “moderate” to “substantial,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The spaces now covered by the mandate include common areas of multi-unit buildings; all indoor workplaces and all outdoor events — including those at fairgrounds and at outdoor performance venues — when social distancing is not possible. Also covered are dugouts, benches and other common seating areas for a wide range of sports, from baseball, soccer and basketball to martial arts, dance classes, fencing and boxing, among others that are considered moderate or high risk for physical contact between players.

Team swimmers must wear masks “at all times when not in water, including but not limited to indoor pool decks, locker rooms, changing rooms, and restrooms.”

Exemptions to the mandate include children under age 2 and anyone who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition.

A performer who is singing or playing a brass/woodwind instrument does not need to wear a mask, but must stand 10 feet away from any member of the public. Performers also include those who are speaking at public events.

Restaurant servers must wear masks when serving customers in outdoor seating areas. Patrons can still remove their masks to eat and drink.

A $1,000 daily fine can be imposed on any “person or entity in control of a public indoor space” who allows the order to be violated. The order does not specify any punishments for outdoor violations.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.