Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and Newton Health and Human Services Commissioner Linda Walsh announced the removal of the indoor mask mandate for public spaces effective at the end of the day on Feb. 18, according to an email update from Fuller on Feb. 11.
Fuller and Walsh rescinded the mandate, in effect since Sept. 2, 2021, due to a variety of factors, Fuller wrote in the update.
One factor Fuller highlighted is that over 95 percent of Newton residents age five and older have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 88 percent of residents are fully vaccinated as of Feb. 1, according to the Newton COVID-19 dashboard.
This high vaccination rate is also present in Newton Public Schools (NPS), Fuller wrote. Eighty percent of elementary school students have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 74 percent have at least two doses.
COVID-19 cases in Newton continue to decline, signaling the end of the Omicron surge, according to Fuller. The Newton COVID-19 dashboard reports a positivity rate of 3.6 percent as of Feb. 5, down from a peak of 13.2 percent on Jan. 8.
Another factor that Walsh and Fuller considered is the current availability of at-home COVID-19 tests, which are covered through health insurance, Fuller wrote.
Fuller noted that businesses and employers can still require masks inside of their buildings, as the mandate applies only to public spaces. NPS has not yet announced a decision about whether it will rescind or continue its mask mandate.
Fuller said that while the city will rescind the mandate, she supports those who choose to continue to wear a mask.
“People have many reasons and circumstances for choosing to wear a mask, including vaccination status, desire to have an extra layer of defense against infection, being in a crowded gathering, visiting vulnerable family or friends, or living with someone who is immunocompromised,” Fuller wrote.
Following a positive COVID-19 test, the CDC recommends wearing a mask after a five-day isolation period. The CDC also recommends wearing masks on school buses, public transportation, and rideshare services, among other settings, according to the update.
The Newton Health and Human Services department also recommends practices that help prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot, staying home when sick, using a test when displaying symptoms, and maintaining general hygiene, according to the update.
Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / Heights Senior Staff