Health Board Recommends Masks in All Indoor Spaces

The Revere Board of Health held its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, January 27, in the City Council Chambers.

In attendance at the meeting were the board’s new chairperson, Dr. Drew Bunker, and fellow members Dr. Craig Costanza and Nezha Louaddi.

The principal action taken by the Board was the approval of an advisory recommendation urging businesses to implement a mask requirement for customers and employees in all indoor settings in the city. The advisory also urges all citizens to wear N-95 or KN-95 masks.

Revere presently has a mask requirement for municipal and school buildings and either a vaccine or testing requirement for city and school employees.

Michael Wells, the city’s Health Agent/Director of Inspectional Services, presented the proposed advisory recommendation to the board members.

Lauren Buck, the city’s Director of Public Health, informed the board members of the masking and vaccine requirements for nearby communities. Boston for example, has a mask requirement and a vaccination requirement for indoor spaces. Other communities have masking requirements only for public indoor spaces.

However, said Buck, “This order is only an advisory recommendation, not a mandate.” Buck pointed out that masking is the best means for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in a business setting, but emphasized, “We have to start living with this and normalizing it a little bit more. A mask mandate does not seem like the right move for Revere businesses today.”

“We don’t have the resources to enforce a mask mandate,” added Wells. “A mask mandate would put businesses in a bind with regard to uncooperative customers. A mandate really is not enforceable. We can’t be out there in the role of the mask police.”

Wells noted however, that any business on its own may require that masks be worn by its employees and patrons.

“This is a good measure and other communities have mask mandates. We wear them in our clinical setting,” said Bunker, who is a doctor with a local practice. “The data and evidence prove that masks prevent the spread of the disease in enclosed settings.”

The board members then unanimously approved the advisory recommendation. 

Earlier in the meeting, Buck presented the monthly report from the health department. 

Buck presented some relatively good news on the COVID front. She said the city is coming down from its peak of Omicron infection rates, though the rate still is extremely high.

She said that the current seven-day case average for COVID-19 presently is 103, the highest-ever in Revere, and is attributable to Omicron. Although the positivity rate still is high, “We’re on the downward slope,” Buck said.

She presented a chart showing that the COVID-19 surge of last winter (which dropped significantly at the start of the summer, though rose again mid-summer) has been dwarfed by the recent Omicron wave that began to spike at Thanksgiving. 

“We think we’ve reached the peak of the Omicron surge and it is coming down rapidly,” said Buck. “However, our daily case counts still are high compared to last summer and even last winter.”

Buck then presented a chart that showed the vaccination rate in the city as of January 18. She highlighted the vaccination rate for ages 5-11 which showed a vaccination rate of 38 percent with one dose and 23 percent with two doses, a big jump over the previous month.

The percent of the overall Revere population who have received a booster is only 26 percent.

“The city needs to get that rate higher,” said Buck, who presented another slide that showed that persons who have received a booster are at a greatly-reduced risk both of catching COVID and suffering from severe symptoms, as compared with those who are unvaccinated or who only are double-dosed.

Buck presented the grim statistics since the start of the pandemic: The total number of confirmed cases in the city stands at 20,135. There have been 180 deaths of Revere residents attributable to COVID-19 over the past two years.

In other health news, Buck said there has been a sharp increase recently in the number of influenza cases in the city. Buck said the ages of the patients, who totaled 54 in the past month, ranged from three months to 91 years old.

Buck also summarized a report from the CDC that warned about the danger of rabies in bats and noted that three Americans have died in the past few months from the disease. All had come into contact with bats in their homes and none had received post-contact treatment for rabies.

Buck also discussed a report issued by the CDC relative to a state-mapping survey for adult physical activity prevalence outside of work hours. She said that overall, 23.3 percent of adults in Massachusetts said they do not engage in any physical activity outside of work. 

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