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North Adams Issues Mask Order For Public Buildings Amid COVID Spike

A brutalist brick building sits under a blue sky.
Josh Landes
/
WAMC
The city hall of North Adams, Massachusetts.

The mayor of North Adams, Massachusetts has issued a face covering order for all public buildings in the city with coronavirus rates on the rise.

Mayor Tom Bernard says the order, effective Friday, is in response to rising COVID-19 rates in the county.

“It’ll be city buildings, so city hall, the library, the senior center, the public safety and public services buildings as people come in there to interact with the public," he told WAMC. "Just to note, I think it's important that last week, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its own set of requirements for school buildings, and so the North Adams Public Schools will follow the DESE guidance as those currently stand and as those evolve.”

Berkshire Health Systems, Berkshire County’s largest health care provider, is reporting 120 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks.

“As we're seeing data start to move in a direction that we're all paying attention to, and as we're seeing other institutions moving toward mask requirements, and I think, really importantly, we're seeing more voluntary masking in public spaces, that it makes sense that the city be one of the folks out in front on this and leading by example, as far as asking that all members of the public who come in wear masks when they're in the building, and that all employees wear masks when interacting with the public,” said Bernard.

North Adams, the second largest community in the Berkshires with around 13,000 residents, is the home to the only currently active COVID-19 outbreak in the county. Almost 60 people between residents and staff – over 80% of them vaccinated – have tested positive at the North Adams Commons nursing home operated by Berkshire Healthcare since late July.

“The folks at Berkshire [Healthcare] have provided updates to me, to staff," said the Mayor. "And I know they're monitoring this very carefully. Again, the information continues to be that those who have been vaccinated are not necessarily experiencing significant symptoms. And we know that this is a particularly vulnerable population because of potentially underlying health conditions. But there is some information and there is some reason to be comfortable that vaccines are working and they're doing what they're supposed to do, which is to prevent the intensity and the severity of exposure when it does happen.”

Bernard says the city is not considering broader public health measures at this time, and has not implemented a vaccine mandate for North Adams employees.

Twenty miles south, the mayor of Pittsfield – Berkshire County’s largest community – says she won’t be issuing a similar order at this time.

“I understand and appreciate Mayor Bernard’s decision to implement a mask mandate in the public buildings in North Adams. However, Pittsfield does not yet have a plan to issue a mask mandate in our public buildings. But we are strongly encouraging our employees and the public to follow the mask advisory that was issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In fact, we sent an email to our employees so that they would know what the new advisory contains. And we hope that they're sharing that with their friends and their families," said Mayor Linda Tyer. “I just spoke with the city's Director of Public Health, Gina Armstrong, and we're both feeling- As we speak today, Josh- that we're comfortable with the strategies that we have in place today.”

Pittsfield is reporting 25 active cases of COVID-19 among its roughly 42,000 residents.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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