Mask Mandate Returns
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The rapid rise in the Delta variant of the coronavirus has prompted the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Health to re-institute the requirement to wear a mask when in local shops or other indoor spaces where the public gathers, including Town Hall. At a joint meeting of the two boards held August 19th, a unanimous vote was taken approving mask wearing in indoor spaces. The requirement begins September 1.
The move is an attempt to slow the spread of the virus before it becomes more established in town and to prevent the need for further restrictive measures. While wearing a mask has its inconveniences, it is a relatively simple, easy measure to take. The science shows us that masks are effective in reducing the spread of the virus. Wearing a mask while indoors at public places and getting vaccinated are the two most effective steps one can take to guard yourself and others against COVID.
Indoor mask wearing even if you are vaccinated is recommended by the CDC. The Delta variant is extremely powerful. While the vaccines are quite effective in reducing the severity of the symptoms from the virus, they are not 100% effective in preventing one from catching it. There are more and more cases of asymptomatic spread by vaccinated people. Mask wearing reduces the chance of this and other types of spread.
The new school year begins next week. The School Committee voted to require all persons within the schools and on the buses to wear masks. Again, this is wholly consistent with CDC guidelines for guarding against the spread of COVID within our schools. The Delta variant has impacted more young people than earlier strains. Having a town-wide mask mandate keeps things simple and consistent.
A majority of residents where quick to get vaccinated. Our vaccination numbers rose rapidly and stands at just below 80%. For older residents the percentage is even higher. But the numbers have plateaued. We have been at the 77% level for quite a few weeks. Our lowest percentages are with our younger residents. This is true nationally and explains in part why we are seeing more young people getting the virus and being hospitalized. For those over 12 this is preventable. For the sake of everyone’s health we need a push to get all eligible residents vaccinated. For information on where and when vaccines are available, visit the Town’s website.
You have likely heard that those with compromised immune systems should get a third shot. For example, a person undergoing treatment for cancer may well have a less robust immune system. Such an individual qualifies now for a third shot and should do so soon.
The rest of us should get a booster shot about 8 months after your second shot. This will naturally space people out over time and thus avoid the long lines we experienced in the early days of vaccine distribution. Booster shots are slated to become available towards the end of September. Stay tuned for details.
After some 19 months of dealing with COVID we are all more then ready to have this pandemic behind us. Unfortunately, the virus is an elusive foe, mutating into new variants, and it may never be completely defeated. New cases continue to appear in Manchester. We have good tools to manage it and it may be that we will have to incorporate these tools into our daily lives on a permanent basis. We can maximize our chances of success by availing ourselves to these tools. Please, if you have not done so already, get vaccinated. And starting September 1, remember to wear a mask any time you are indoors at places open to the public.