Cambridge, Somerville to start requiring face coverings in public to slow spread of coronavirus

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (WHDH) - In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, people in Somerville and Cambridge will be required to wear face coverings starting Wednesday.

The City of Cambridge announced Monday that the new order requires anyone over the age of 5 to wear a clean face mask or face covering when in any indoor or outdoor space that is open to the public.

Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and the city’s Board of Health said the same order applies for Somerville for anyone over the age of 2.

“I know this feels strange for many of us, but it is the best way you can prevent yourself from inadvertently spreading coronavirus to others when you’re out in public,” Curtatone said. “Not everyone who has COVID-19 shows symptoms. You can be carrying the virus and infecting others without knowing.”

Both orders go into effect on Wednesday and a one-week grace period will be granted to allow the community time to comply.

“No one wants to be the one who infected the grocery store clerk, or the hardware store stocker, or the family out for a stroll. Wearing a mask is one way to avoid that,” Curtatone added.

Cambridge officials and Curtatone said the orders are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With more than 80,000 residents in just 4.1 square miles, Somerville is the most densely populated city in New England, which makes protective and social distancing measures all the more critical, City Council President Matt McLaughlin explained.

“Wearing a mask is far more effective if everyone is doing it,” McLaughlin said. “The effectiveness of face masks decreases significantly if someone infected with COVID-19 isn’t wearing a mask, even if others do wear masks. We need a collective buy-in from the public to stop the spread of infection.”

Somerville Police Chief David Fallon said his department will work to educate members of the public about the face-covering requirement wherever possible before issuing a ticket.

“Ticketing for this is our last resort, but we do have to put public health first. So for those individuals who willfully fail to comply, we will reserve this option,” Fallon said. “It’s encouraging how many residents are already wearing masks, and we will work with understanding to help others do so as well.”

People who violate the face-covering order in Cambridge could face a $300 fine.

Appropriate face coverings must cover the nose and mouth and be made from a clean material, according to the CDC. Scarves, bandanas, or any piece of clean cloth may be used.

Other Massachusetts communities, including Everett and Winthrop, have implemented similar orders.

Somerville is also offering free COVID-19 testing to residents with and without symptoms. Residents do not need to have insurance or a doctor’s referral to get tested.

“No matter who you are or what kind of health coverage you have, you will be able to schedule a free test at the Somerville Hospital campus,” Curtatone said. “What I really want to stress is that we cannot get ahead of this virus unless everybody, and I mean everybody, is tested.”

The only requirement is that individuals must be Somerville residents and must call to set up an appointment using a new hotline number at 1-617-665-2928.

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