UPDATE: Westborough’s mask mandate in municipal buildings is expected to remain in effect until Jan. 10. An employee guidance document also details other recommended COVID-19 precautions to take as this new mask mandate takes effect.
WESTBOROUGH – Masks are once again required inside Westborough municipal buildings regardless of vaccination status.
The town announced the new requirement on Tuesday evening to take effect on Wednesday.
“This action is in response to recent increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Westborough, its surrounding communities and Worcester County as a whole,” the town’s statement said.
Mandate to remain in place until Jan. 10
The requirement applies to anyone over the age of two. It encompasses Town Hall, the Forbes Municipal Building, the Westborough Public Library, the Senior Center and the Fire Department. Department of Public Works facilities are also included.
This decision was made “in consultation” with Westborough’s Public Health Director and its Fire Chief, who also serves as Emergency Management Director, Town Manager Kristi Williams wrote in an email to the Community Advocate on Wednesday.
The mandate will now remain in place into the new year, according to Williams, with the town anticipating a return to flexible masking on Monday, Jan. 10.
“We will continue to monitor the data and make adjustments to this plan as appropriate,” Williams wrote.
Beyond masking, town employees have also been asked to conduct both internal and external meetings remotely when possible, according to a guidance document shared with the Community Advocate.
They’re also asked to “only physically go to other offices when doing so is required to perform job functions,” among other things.
Boards and committees, meanwhile, are “encouraged to meet remotely as they are able.”
Mandate follows COVID-19 case increase
Westborough had relaxed some mask requirements in recent months, most recently revising a mask mandate for the library with a 3-0 vote by the Board of Health on Oct. 27.
Vaccinated visitors had the option of removing their masks following that vote, though they were required to keep them on if they entered the library’s children’s room.
Westborough’s new mask requirement now comes after the town recorded 57 new COVID-19 cases between Nov. 19 and Nov. 26 according to the Board of Health. That was an increase compared to the 34 cases recorded in the previous week.
The local case rate had previously dipped to as low as seven new cases in the week between Sept. 17 and Sept. 24 earlier this year.
Alan Ehrlich of the Board of Health recently noted multiple factors “contributing to the increase in cases,” including increased time indoors due to cold weather, decreased COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, “the persistent pool of unvaccinated individuals,” and new COVID-19 variants.
“Looking at Massachusetts as a whole, the current level of infections is significantly elevated compared to a month ago and so what we are seeing in Westborough is consistent with what is happening at the regional level,” Ehrlich added.