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'A High Level Of Compliance': It Seems Most People Are Following The Mass. Mask Mandate 02:47
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People walk along the Commonwealth Mall. on the first day masks are required to be worn in the state. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
People walk along the Commonwealth Mall. on the first day masks are required to be worn in the state. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

People flocked to Boston Common while the sun was still shining Wednesday afternoon. It was as populated as it might be on any given weekday. And nearly everyone was wearing a mask.

Meg Thomas, her husband and her son had masks. She said at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her family weren't big on the idea of covering their faces. But that changed Wednesday, when the state-wide mask mandate went into effect.

"At first we weren't wearing them, [we were] just trying to keep distance from other people," Thomas said. "But now that [Gov. Charlie Baker] says that we all should, we feel more obligated to. And I think it makes people around you feel better and it may help a little bit."

While the new rule may have changed some people's behavior, there are still a few people who don't see the need. For instance, one woman, walking through the Common said "I'm fine" when asked why she wasn't wearing a mask.

"I don't need it," she said, walking away.

But public health experts have repeatedly explained that wearing a mask isn't only to protect yourself, it's also to protect your neighbor if you have the virus.

A woman runs across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A woman runs across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Earlier in the day, along the Charles River, there weren't too many joggers or cyclists or walkers. But most had some sort of face covering. One man far away from the trail said he lost his but will get one tomorrow.

At a news conference Wednesday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh pointed out that city has had a mask advisory in place before the state mandate "and most of us have it down."

The statewide mask mandate requires people to cover their face when they can't socially distance. But the mayor's expectations seem higher.

"Whenever you leave your home, you should be wearing a face covering," Walsh said.  "If you remove it for whatever reason, we're asking to put it back on when you take it off — whether it's to pack a car with groceries or what have you."

And when it comes to enforcement Walsh doesn't seem eager to use the muscle of law enforcement.

"We've heard and witnessed and read situations in other parts of the country where enforcement has been unequal or uneven in communities of color," he said. "Our approach is to support you, not to punish you, especially if you're already financially struggling."

But Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes says he doesn't anticipate police will need to fine or arrest people not adhering to the mask requirement.

"The norm is everyone is wearing a mask. If you don't have have a mask,  you are the person who really sticks out in the crowd," he said. "There is a high level of compliance."

Kyes, who heads the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police organization, said if people don't have masks, officers in his department and others will hand out masks instead of tickets.

A woman with a baby carraige walks past the tulips in bloom at the Boston Public Garden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A woman with a baby carraige walks past the tulips in bloom at the Boston Public Garden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This segment aired on May 6, 2020.

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Quincy Walters Twitter Reporter
Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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