Coronavirus

Cambridge is reimposing an indoor mask mandate next week

The order comes after every one of the city's neighboring communities also reimposed indoor mask mandates.

Mask-wearing people cross Broadway Street in Cambridge last month. Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe

The city of Cambridge will join its surrounding communities next week in reimposing an indoor mask mandate, citing the recent rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant.

City officials issued an emergency order Friday requiring that individuals over the age of 2 in Cambridge wear masks or coverings in indoor public places, beginning next Friday, Sept. 3, at 8 a.m.

The mandate applies to virtually all publicly accessible indoor settings, including stores, restaurants, bars, performance venues, social clubs, houses of worship, event spaces, municipal buildings, personal care establishments, and gyms.

Like most mask mandates, the order does allow patrons at restaurants and bars to remove face coverings when actively eating or drinking. Performers can also go maskless if they can maintain six feet of distance from others.

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The order does not apply to offices, labs, and other workspaces that aren’t publicly accessible; common areas of residential buildings; or private residences in which no one is being paid for its use.

The order comes after every single one of Cambridge’s neighboring communities — Boston, Somerville, Arlington, Belmont, and Watertown — also reimposed indoor mask mandates over the past several weeks.

Cambridge officials acknowledged Friday that deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Massachusetts remain relatively low. They also noted that over 68 percent of the city’s residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, due the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, officials also noted that both Cambridge and Middlesex County have transmission rates above the level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends indoor masking, regardless of vaccination states.

“While the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and do an excellent job of preventing serious illness and death, they do not always prevent a fully vaccinated person from getting infected and spreading the virus to others,” Susan Breen, the interim chief public health officer for Cambridge, said in a statement.

“Masks offer another important layer of protection,” Breen said. “Wearing a mask indoors when outside the home—regardless of vaccination status—will help keep you and the community healthy.”

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According to the order, officials will primarily work to “secure voluntary compliance” with the mandate. However, violators could face $300 fines.

“With schools reopening and COVID-19 cases increasing due to the highly infectious Delta variant, instituting this mask mandate for indoor public places is a critical measure to help minimize the spread of the virus,” Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said.

The city is also expanding its free COVID-19 testing program from three days a week to four days a week, beginning Sept. 8.

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