MBTS BOH: Mask Mandate Deliberate Policy


To the Editor,

Thank you for comments concerning the mask mandate.  Please be assured we take all sources of information under consideration during our deliberations.  We would like to take this opportunity to share with you our reasons for the mandate.  We have continually reviewed public health data, as well as assessing peer reviewed studies from federal and state agencies and the world-renowned medical community in Boston.  

While we may differ in our views on the level of risk of exposure to the virus, we must rely on scientific facts to inform our decisions.  We would like to review the facts that we followed and address the potential risk to our families, friends, and neighbors.

  • The impact of the Delta variant is real. It is highly contagious and more likely to cause severe disease than the original, wild-type virus strains.
  • The Delta variant is more likely to infect children than the wild-type strain, which is concerning at this time, as children under age 12 remain ineligible for vaccination.
  • Break-through infections have been occurring in vaccinated populations and are often asymptomatic (no signs of illness).
  • Fully vaccinated individuals have the potential to infect others once infected themselves.
  • Vaccination has been shown to reduce the severity of infection (low rate of severe disease and death).
  • Wearing a mask indoors reduces virus transmission substantially.
  • While 80 percent of the eligible population of Manchester has been vaccinated, which is something to be very proud of, the ineligible and unvaccinated, as well as those with waning immunity over time, are the vulnerable populations we now must aim to protect.
  • We estimate that over 40 percent of Manchester residents remain highly vulnerable to infection.

While the documented case count on Cape Ann (less than 1 percent of the population) suggests a low risk of becoming infected, undocumented and asymptomatic cases are likely present.  Given that almost half of Manchester is still vulnerable, it is our obligation to take measures to mitigate the risk to them, as well as to you, your family, friends and neighbors.  Wearing a mask indoors is an effective, minimally intrusive method of mitigating the spread of the virus.  Our town has done an excellent job implementing and adhering to measures that have kept cases, severe disease and death extremely low and now the focus is on protecting the still vulnerable portions of our population from getting infected and ill.  Our hope is that the indoor mask mandate will keep children safe from exposure both in and out of school, as well as help to keep the work force healthy so that reopening efforts are not hampered, especially as many activities will be moving indoors soon.

We understand and respect your position on the level of potential risk.  We did not come to the decision to support a mask mandate lightly but believe it is in the best interest of our town and especially the vulnerable portion of our residents.  We hope you can appreciate our responsibility to protect the residents of Manchester and support our masking policy.  As vaccinations for 5 to 11-year-old individuals are being rolled out and booster shots are becoming more widespread, we are planning to continuously reassess the need for the mandate and will consider this issue in a timely manner.

Thank you,

Members of the Manchester Board of Health

Paula Polo Filias, Chair

Peter Colarusso

Joan Cottler, MSW

Dr. Martin Hahn

Dr. Tonya Colpitts

manchester board of health, delta variant, paula polo filias, mask mandate