Metro, Newton

As COVID-19 Cases Plummet in Newton, Residents React to a Changing Pandemic Environment

For the second week in a row, the City of Newton has reported fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19. Laurette Bachman, a Newton resident, said she feels safer following the recent decline in cases.

“I’m older,” Bachman said. “And I think that this is a community that really cares about each other. So despite different political views and misinformation, I think people have respected keeping each other safe.”

Newton reported only 74 confirmed cases of COVID-19 from March 10 to 16, according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s weekly update. Thirty-six percent of those cases came from one of Newton’s institutions of higher education, according to the update, though Fuller did not specify which one. 

In comparison, the city reported 275 confirmed cases on Jan. 3 alone, according to the city’s COVID-19 Dashboard

The city dropped its mask mandate in public spaces effective Feb. 18. Then, on March 8, Newton Public Schools made masks optional for students and staff. Despite the loosened restrictions, Bachman said she thinks more people wear masks in Newton than in other places in the country. 

“We just came back from a trip in Florida where COVID doesn’t exist in Florida, and, you know, at least on the airplane, people did wear their masks—and it’s a pain in the neck,” Bachman said. 

Kathy Dupre, another Newton resident, said fewer people are wearing masks in Newton compared to a month ago. 

“Here, about half of the people mask now, which is pretty low compared to like a month ago,” Dupre said. “Other places, the same. … It’s definitely reducing, I would say.” 

Now, Dupre said she hopes to see more people be comfortable without wearing masks.

“It’s a different social experience when you have to mask all the time,” Dupre said. “Personally, I use a lot of facial expressions when I communicate. And obviously I can’t do that if I’m wearing a mask. So it’s been a little bit hard for me to talk to people.”

Bachman, though, said she still wears masks in large public places like the grocery store. 

“I still am wearing a mask in the big stores, but I’ve definitely moved to a more open kind of environment,” Bachman said. “You know, I’m eating out—not in crowded restaurants yet—but I’m feeling a lot safer.”

In the future, Bachman said she hopes the city responds to new variants appropriately. 

“I hope we will respond and again go back to being careful—more careful—with more restrictions,” she said. 

Aside from restrictions, Bachman said she would like to see the city continue to support outdoor dining.

“I don’t know what the warmer weather will bring,” she said. “There were streets that were closed and restaurants had access to outside dining. So if things were to worsen, I would hope that the city would support [businesses] having more access to outdoor venues.”

But so far, Bachman said she thinks the city has responded to COVID-19 well. 

“I think Newton’s done a great job,” she said. “I think the mayor’s done a great job of communication of information.”

Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Editor

March 20, 2022