CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Multiple communities in western Massachusetts now have indoor mask mandates and starting Monday, that includes Springfield. With rising COVID-19 cases, Chicopee implemented an indoor mask policy for municipal buildings, after hearing concerns from city employees.
“Everyone’s tired. We’re tired of masks. We’re tired to mandates. This is America, no one wants to mandate things. But we do have to protect our community,” Chicopee Mayor John Vieau told 22News. “There’s been some employees who are feeling a bit uncomfortable from what I’m hearing and we want to make sure that everyone who works here in the City of Chicopee has a safe, comfortable, working environment.”
29 people in Chicopee have died from COVID-19. Mayor Vieau said over the weekend they had 49 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed and now they’re at 351 total cases, “and it’s a concern,” Mayor Vieau told 22News.
They join East Longmeadow, Easthampton, Northampton, Amherst, Greenfield and Belchertown in restarting some kind of indoor mask policy.
Chicopee is considering a mask mandate for all indoor venues as well but the challenge is the amount of personnel needed to enforce it. “We’re hopeful that business owners will do what they think is right and in the best interest of their private business,” Mayor Vieau continued.
That’s now the case for Springfield where everyone two years old and above, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask indoors.
“We’re hopeful that the mask mandate will decrease the data and once the data is decreased then we can all get back to some level of normal living,” Springfield Health and Human Services commissioner, Helen Caulton-Harris told 22News.
The city is leaving enforcement of the indoor mask mandate up to the individual businesses but there will be an up-to $300 dollar for non compliance.
“We’re also asking the public, if you see egregious violations please let us know. But we are asking those businesses that you please enforce and regulate the mask mandate,” Caulton-Harris said.
Both cities reiterated the importance of increasing vaccination rates in order to slow down COVID-19 cases and return to normal. “I think we’ve done a tremendous job as a community and I would hate to see us keep heading backwards instead of forwards,” Mayor Vieau said.
22News asked Mayor Vieau what he would say to people who are fully vaccinated and are tired of COVID regulations returning. “I was feeling the same way. As a vaccinated person I’m saying ‘Jeez, I have to go back to wearing a mask? I’m vaccinated. I did what you told me to do.’ I think there’s a fourth wave coming through and really ultimately we’re trying to protect people,” Mayor Vieau continued after touching upon breakthrough cases.
Springfield’s mask mandate is in effect until November 1st. Chicopee does not have a specific end date for theirs but the mayor said with rising vaccination rates mask orders will hopefully go away.