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Update: Cambridge will also begin requiring face masks for anyone older than 5 years old, starting Wednesday. After a one-week grace period, those without could be subject to a $300 fine.
Somerville will soon require people wear face masks when in public spaces, and will begin ticketing those who don't comply up to $300.
The order goes into effect Wednesday, and police will begin issuing written warnings or tickets after a one-week grace period, the city said. Anyone over the age of two will have to wear a clean face mask or face covering in any public indoor or outdoor space, That includes restaurant pickup zones, parks, sidewalks and parking lots. Bikers and runners must also wear masks.
“I know this feels strange for many of us, but it is the best way you can prevent yourself from inadvertently spreading coronavirus to others when you’re out in public,” Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in a statement. “Not everyone who has COVID-19 shows symptoms. You can be carrying the virus and infecting others without knowing. No one wants to be the one who infected the grocery store clerk, or the hardware store stocker or the family out for a stroll. Wearing a mask is one way to avoid that.”
In addition to public outdoor spaces and businesses, the order also applies to common spaces in multi-unit residences. Businesses must display signs reminding customers to wear a facial covering.
The order doesn't apply to public transport or ride shares because the city does not have the authority to regulate there.
Earlier this month, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh asked all residents to wear a mask in public, but did not make it mandatory.
Somerville city officials said police are "committed to compassionate policing," and will seek to educate the public about the requirement first. They will also carry masks to give to people experiencing homelessness or mental illness.
“Ticketing for this is our last resort, but we do have to put public health first," Somerville Police Chief David Fallon said in a statement. "So for those individuals who willfully fail to comply, we will reserve this option."
The city's announcement acknowledged that the new mandate may be difficult for some residents to follow, such as parents trying to keep masks on young children.
The order is based on safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Somerville is the most densely populated city in New England, with 80,000 residents in 4.1 square miles. City officials say that makes protective measures like this more critical.
The order outlines appropriate face coverings as a clean material that fully covers the nose and mouth, including scarves, bandanas or a piece of clean cloth.
Curtatone reminded residents that enforcing the mask order is not the job of the general public. And he acknowledged that some people don't feel safe covering their face in public.
"We will do what we can to help make you feel more comfortable and I urge everyone in the community to do the same," Curtatone said. "Remember, if you see someone walking down the street with their face covered, they are doing what they are supposed to.”
This article was originally published on April 27, 2020.
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