Westborough Board of Health issues new guidance following COVID-19 case uptick


By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

Masks are now required in Westborough Public Library. Photo/Laura Hayes
Masks are now required in Westborough Public Library.
(Photo/Laura Hayes)

By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

WESTBOROUGH – Masks will be required inside the Westborough Public Library through Oct. 1 after a joint meeting of the Westborough Board of Health and the Select Board on Aug. 24 to discuss the recent COVID-19 case uptick.

Board of Health Chair Alan Ehrlich said that the cases are largely breakthrough cases among individuals who are vaccinated. He added that the cases have resulted in no new hospitalizations.

The small minority of unvaccinated individuals who have tested positive recently have mostly been children who are ineligible for the vaccine. 

He also said that the numbers mostly represent cluster cases, such as families living together or seniors living in a shared facility.

“There certainly has been an uptick in COVID cases in Westborough in the month of August compared to the month of July,” Ehrlich said. “In the month of July, I think we had a total of 14 cases. We’ve had 33 cases so far and, in conversations with [Town Sanitarian] Ray [Gauthier], there are more expected even in the remaining week of the month.” 

The Board of Health and Select Board passed new guidance and regulations based on this data. 

These included a joint statement urging any unvaccinated Westborough citizens or employees to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible and a new mask mandate for the Westborough library lasting from Aug. 27 through Oct. 1. 

The board also endorsed state guidance that unvaccinated people should wear masks indoors. 

Select Board Member Patrick Welch supported a suggestion that the town institute a mandate for people to wear masks in public buildings during a wide ranging discussion on masking, vaccination and possible town mandates.

“I hate wearing this mask, it is hard for me to speak in a public session like this,” he said. “But I think it’s really important that we see this uptick, and I think that we do the right thing in the interest of public health and safety.”

Welch pointed to Southborough’s recent requirement that members of the public wear face coverings when entering public buildings as an example of a municipality with a similar vaccination rate enacting a mandate.

However, such a mask mandate did not come to a vote as other Select Board members said they did not support that measure at this stage. 

One member, Shelby Marshall, said that the case numbers in Westborough are not large enough to support a mandate. 

“I think the consensus of the Board from the prior discussion is we’re not ready,” said Select Board Chair Allen Edinberg. “The majority of the Select Board at least is not supportive of a mask mandate for all town buildings.”

Ehrlich stressed that cases from the past month have not been spread through public buildings. Instead, they had particular circumstances that were unrelated to both town settings or day-to-day business operations. 

The Board of Health will hold another meeting with the Select Board to discuss their COVID-19 strategy and any updates on Sept. 14.

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