Coronavirus

Watch: Brookline official on why the town has kept its outdoor mask mandate

The Massachusetts town drew national attention for holding out against Gov. Charlie Baker easing requirements for face coverings outside.

Brookline officials are holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday to consider revisions to the town’s mask mandate after gaining national attention for holding out against Gov. Charlie Baker easing rules for outdoor face coverings last week.

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The change in Massachusetts, which allows individuals to remove face coverings when outside and consistently at least six feet away from people outside their household, came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for outdoor mask use saying fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outside unless in crowded settings or venues. Both Brookline and Salem officials said over the weekend they would keep their outdoor mask requirements.

On Tuesday, Brookline’s director of health and human services, Swannie Jett, appeared on CNN to explain the motives for keeping the outdoor mandate despite the guidance from the state and CDC. Crediting Brookline for moving quickly to institute a mask mandate last year before the state did so, Jett said he wanted the town’s advisory council to weigh in before making any changes and wanted to ensure officials are taking a look at the science first.

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“As you know, only 30 percent of our population has been vaccinated,” he said. “So that’s only about 20,000 people. So we still have about 40,000 people that have not been vaccinated. And if we lift the mask mandate, who is going to police those people that are not wearing a mask to make sure that they have been vaccinated? So we’re very cautious about that impact.”

The health and human services director stressed that the potential negative impacts of lifting the outdoor mandate remain unknown.

“Remember, COVID is not over; the pandemic still exists,” Jett said. “We still have people dying, it still can be transmitted … This is the one public health precaution that we have in place that can ensure that people probably don’t contract COVID or spread it to somebody else.”

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The town’s Advisory Council on Public Health will meet at 5:30 p.m to review the mask mandate. While no public comment will be offered during the meeting, statements or questions can be submitted to the council before 1 p.m.

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