Dalton BOH Encourages Indoor Masking, Universal Vaccination
DALTON, Mass. — The Board of Health recommends masking in public spaces of town buildings and strongly advises universal vaccination.
On Monday, the board unanimously voted to recommend that the Select Board encourage all employees and community members to mask in public spaces of town buildings regardless of vaccination status and that they strongly recommend universal vaccination.
Board members were not yet ready to suggest mandates for the two COVID-19 mitigation processes but exhibited concern for Berkshire County's recent rise in community spread. There were 100 new cases over the weekend.
They emphasized that the passed motion is a recommendation and not a mandate.
"From a public health standpoint, there continues to be a significant increase in COVID in Berkshire County, rates are running about 17 to 18 cases per 100,000 per day and there are currently eight people in the hospital, one in intensive care," Chairman Dr. Daniel Doyle said.
He added that in the past month, the state has found that more than 85 percent of cases are the Delta variant through genomic testing.
Doyle did not support a mask mandate, as the town is following state guidelines in accordance with masking, but strongly advocated for communitywide vaccination.
The county is within the U.S. Centers For Disease Control's infection risk category that would mandate universal indoor masking but Gov. Charlie Baker has not made the leap.
Doyle speculated that many hospitals are not overwhelmed due to the state and Berkshire County's high vaccination rate. Berkshire County's rate of eligible individuals vaccinated is 70 percent; about two-thirds of the total population is vaccinated.
"The whole reason for mitigation is to avoid people from dying from a disease and to prevent your health system from being overwhelmed to the point where they can't care adequately for the patients who have COVID and they can't offer their usual care and services to other members of the community," he said.
"And fortunately, because of the prevalence of vaccinations in the state, in Berkshire County included, we're not experiencing the same kind of impact on the health system that we were having, so I think that's why the state had decided not to recommend universal masking, I think, from my standpoint, if you're going to push for something you should push to get people vaccinated."
He made a motion that the BOH recommends to the Select Board and School Committee that all employees of town and Central Berkshire Regional School District have required vaccination but the motion was not seconded.
Health Agent Jayne Smith said many cases of vaccinated individuals coming down with the virus were due to them living with an unvaccinated person who was infected.
Public health nurses reportedly second the prevalence of this trend.
Smith reported that she wrote a mask advisory encouraging the use of them indoors in the public buildings but the Select Board was not prepared to put it into motion.
Before the Department of Elementary and Secondary Board of Education approved a statewide mask mandate for schools, the CBRSD implemented a mandate of masking for everyone regardless of vaccination status until Oct. 1.
Retired physician Dr. Henry Rose attended the meeting to voice support for a mask mandate and universal vaccination. He cited concern with members of the community being unvaccinated.
"What about encouraging the community to get vaccinated? People respect you and our vaccine numbers are not quite up to the rest of the state," Rose said.
"How about some kind of statement to the community and in addition to workers in the Town Hall, I know at least people two people in Town Hall are not vaccinated, but a statement from you guys encouraging them to get vaccinated I think will go a long way."
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