Health officials lift mask mandate in Orange

  • South Main Street in downtown Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2022 3:19:16 PM
Modified: 3/4/2022 3:18:51 PM

ORANGE — With COVID-19 case numbers down and vaccination rates up, the Board of Health has given the green light to lift the townwide mask mandate, effective Saturday.

Chair Patricia Pierson explained during a meeting this week that the date was selected because students returned from February break on Monday and the incubation period — the time between exposure to an infectious agent and when first symptoms are displayed — for any COVID-19 case contracted during the vacation ends March 5.

At least 40 people tuned in to the mask mandate discussion held at the beginning of the board’s virtual meeting. Board member Josefa Scherer, who mentioned the mandate was enacted as the community awaited stabilization in COVID-19 cases, made the motion to rescind the mandate, and fellow member Jane Peirce seconded it.

“This is pretty simple for me,” Peirce said, noting the mask mandate for indoor public buildings and private businesses was put in place in October when coronavirus numbers were spiking in Orange.

She said a mandate was the responsible move at the time and it is only reasonable to lift the mandate now that case numbers are down due to high rates of vaccinations and booster shots. She mentioned board members had received “an awful lot of messages” calling them “dictators” and “totalitarians.”

Pierce said members of any society have a responsibility to protect one another and she was slightly offended that some “thought we were just making up rules to be bossy.”

According to an update posted to the Board of Health’s Facebook page, as of Feb. 25, there were 18 active COVID-19 cases in Orange. Sixty-three percent of the town’s population is fully vaccinated, while 70% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“Reported case counts have dropped to levels not seen in months,” the update reads. “Daily case counts are down by 90% over the last four weeks.”

School committees in Orange have yet to rescind their mask requirements, though meetings are scheduled next week to further discuss the topic. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education lifted its statewide mask mandate on Feb. 28, which left individual school districts with their own choices as to whether students and staff should continue to be masked.

Health Agent Matthew Fortier also mentioned the state Department of Public Health advises people to wear a mask or face covering when indoors in a public setting if they are unvaccinated or have a weakened immune system, are at an increased risk for severe disease due to age or an underlying health condition, or have a household member who is unvaccinated or immunocompromised.

Fortier said he is pleased to know COVID-19 cases are declining in the area, though it was disheartening to recently see the omicron variant rip through the country.

“Now we have other things ripping through countries,” he said in an apparent reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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