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Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale issued an emergency order Monday requiring all people in the city to wear face masks in public places, businesses, and common areas of residential buildings during the coronavirus crisis.
Businesses outlined in the emergency order include grocery stores, pharmacies, laundromats, restaurants, government buildings, and office buildings. Residents will also be required to wear face coverings while entering lobbies, hallways, elevators, stairwells, laundry rooms, and other indoor and outdoor common areas in residential buildings.
On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear cloth or fabric face coverings in public, citing evidence that asymptomatic individuals can transmit the coronavirus to others.
Although the city issued an advisory to wear masks in public places on April 9, some residents have not followed it, according to a joint statement released by DePasquale and Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui Monday.
“While we are grateful to those in Cambridge who have been heeding our previous mask advisory and taking this issue seriously, we are concerned about the number of residents who continue to shop, walk, run, and bike throughout the city without proper face coverings,” the statement reads.
“This mandate emphasizes the importance of wearing a face covering, not as an option, but as a requirement in our effort to combat this pandemic together,” it continues.
The temporary emergency order applies to everyone over the age of five and will remain in place until the declaration of a state of emergency in the city is rescinded. Exemptions will be provided to people who have trouble breathing or who are unable to remove the mask without assistance, according to the order.
The order takes effect Wednesday, but according to the city’s announcement there will be a “one week grace period” to allow residents time to comply.
The city’s announcement states the Cambridge Police Department will focus on “educating violators” and may issue warnings to those who do not cooperate with the temporary emergency order. Violators who refuse to comply may be charged a $300 fine.
During Monday’s City Council meeting, DePasquale said residents should continue to stay home and limit time spent in public places around non-household members.
“Residents should continue to stay at home, to wear face coverings if they need to go out, and practice good hand hygiene,” he said.
“Our emergency order requiring face coverings is not permission for people to go outside for non-essential activities,” he added.
The Cambridge Public Health Department reported that 710 residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the outbreak began, as of Monday. The city has confirmed 43 coronavirus-related deaths.
Claude-Alix Jacob, Chief Public Health Officer of CPHD, provided City Council members with information regarding COVID-19 demographics during the council’s weekly meeting.
According to Jacob, coronavirus cases in Cambridge have followed national trends by disproportionately affecting people of color — specifically black residents.
“Sadly, the patterns that we’re seeing are not surprising,” he said. “The rate for black non-Hispanic residents is nearly three times the rate for white non-Hispanic residents.”
Jacob said CPHD has worked with different groups in Cambridge to support people of color in the city — including efforts to provide information on social distancing, collaborate with “literacy ambassadors” to give educational support, and connect people with health care resources.
“While I’m sharing a sobering picture, I did want to at least acknowledge the assets that we have in the community and at least remind this group of what we’ve done historically over time,” Jacob said.
“It takes a village to raise a healthy community, and our department and city partners have been way ahead of the curve in identifying and responding to racial and ethnic health inequities in our city,” he added.
—Staff Writer Maria G. Gonzalez can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mariaagrace1.
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