The Medford Board of Health, citing a three week decrease in the City’s COVID-19 positivity rate, voted unanimously at its regular meeting on February 15 to lift the indoor mask requirement for private businesses. The Board of Health also voted to rescind the vaccination requirement for large-scale indoor entertainment venues like the Chevalier Theatre, though performers have the ability to require proof of vaccinations on a show-by-show basis. Both orders will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on February 16, 2022. The Board still advises mask-wearing while indoors for those who are at greater risk of developing severe infection.
Before voting today, the Board examined state and local COVID data which illustrated a sustained drop in positive cases. As of February 10, Medford’s percent positivity rate is at 2.8 percent, down from just under 14 percent this time last month. This metric, along with Medford’s strong vaccination numbers —nearly 90 percent of residents have received at least one dose—drove the Board’s decision to lift the mask and vaccine order. The Board’s vote came shortly after the State’s Department of Health eased mask mandates statewide as of Tuesday.
“We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in positive cases in Medford, as well as across the state,” Board of Health Director MaryAnn O’Connor said. “The data is encouraging and shows that with the steady rise of vaccinations and expanded eligibility for booster shots, we’ve reached a point in our COVID-19 response where mitigation efforts, like mask-wearing, while still recommended, no longer requires a mandate be in place.
Protective measures such as vaccinations, booster shots and antiviral drugs, significantly lessen the severe effects of the virus and while masks do provide an additional layer of protection, there are additional and proven effective ways of protecting the public, the board members said.
“We’ve been combatting this virus for two years and we now have the ability to better protect ourselves through multiple means, like vaccines, boosters and medication,” Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said. “As I’ve said since the beginning, our public health response will be driven by data which has showed a steady decline in positive cases over the last several weeks. I urge everyone to take whatever precautions they deem appropriate and just because mask-wearing isn’t required, doesn’t mean that you have to stop wearing one.”
The next Board of Health meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 15.