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Swampscott to end mask mandate

A customer wears a mask as she walks out of Marshalls at Vinnin Square in Swampscott on Tuesday. (Spenser Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — The Board of Health voted, 3-0, Tuesday night to rescind the town’s current mask mandate on Feb. 20. 

The mandate will be lifted at 11:59 p.m. on that date. The town’s mask order has been in place since Dec. 23. 

“We are now seeing our numbers come down, which is fantastic,” said Board of Health Chair Marianne Hartmann. “They are still not where we would like them to be. We are still in the red in town, which means high transmission rate, but our numbers are doing a lot better, certainly, and we are headed in the right direction.”

Board of Health member Emily Cilley said that while the latest COVID-19 variant has proven to be more contagious, the public-health data has shown that people are not getting as sick from the virus as they were in earlier stages of the pandemic. 

“People are getting it when they are vaccinated and boosted, but they are not getting really sick and I just feel as though right now we have to take a different perspective and COVID is not the only dangerous thing that we have right now,” said Cilley. “The mental health of our community is suffering and I’m so ready to have some normalcy and I think that a lot of the community is ready to have some normalcy. 

Given that COVID cases are dropping in Swampscott and surrounding communities following the surge that was seen over the holiday season, Cilley said she was ready to rescind the mask mandate. If another variant comes along that drives cases up again, she said the Board of Health could reconsider a new mask mandate at that time. 

Director of Public Health Jeffrey Vaughan cited the data he received from nearby hospitals two weeks ago; this information indicates that hospitals are not riddled with severe cases like they were before and intensive-care-unit beds are reverting back to being occupied by non-COVID patients. 

Despite the town’s plans to lift the mandate, Vaughan said he still intends to wear his mask in indoor public places for the time being. 

“As a resident, as a person — however you want to say it — it’s time to really know what you should be doing and who you need to protect,” he said. “I will continue to wear my mask in a supermarket and places like that for the next few weeks at least, whether there is a mask mandate or not. And I think that’s the decision that everybody needs to make to protect the people that are around them.”

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