Watertown had one of the strictest face covering requirements in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but on Wednesday the Board of Health voted to bring Watertown’s rules in line with those set by Massachusetts officials. The main difference between Watertown’s rules and the state’s was that people over age 5 had to wear face coverings everywhere in public, inside and out, in Watertown. The state guidelines have a face covering requirement when outside only when you cannot stay 6 feet or farther apart. People violating Watertown’s order face a possible fine of $300. Along with changing when face coverings must be worn, the amendment also makes the first violation punishable by a warning, and the second violation could result in a $300 fine.
The Watertown Board of Health will consider amending its emergency order requiring face coverings in Town to match the order made by the Governor. On April 30, the Board of Health adopted an Emergency Order that requires people to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all time in public places, indoors or out. Two days later, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a statewide order that requires the wearing of face coverings in places where social distancing is not possible. The state order included inside all retail store such as grocery stores or pharmacies, as well as, on public transportation. The order, however, allowed for people not to use face coverings when outside if people are able to social distance.
The Watertown Board of Health voted to require that people wear face coverings when out in public, indoors and out, or face a fine. The order is a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, said Town Health Director Larry Ramdin. The board voted to approve the order, which will take effect Monday, May 4 and requires anyone age 5 or older to wear something that covers their nose and mouth while in public places, but not necessarily a face mask. Other options include bandanas or scarfs that cover the nose and mouth. Exceptions will be made for children under age 5, as well as people who have health conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing a face covering.
Watertown’s Board of Health will meet Thursday afternoon to discuss whether to require that people wear face masks in public places in town. The meeting will meet on April 30 at 3 p.m. via Zoom meeting, which the public can join. The lone agenda item reads: Consider and affirm order requiring wearing of face masks in public to contain spread ofCOVID 19 Virus. Watertown would join other communities requiring people to wear face coverings while out in public. Somerville and Cambridge passed orders requiring people to wear a face mask in public places.
Following a wave of input from concerned residents, Watertown officials will look at ways to make sure that biotech labs in town are safe.
The issue arose in August when the developers of Arsenal Yards proposed changing office space in the renovated Arsenal Mall into space for biotech research and development. The issue is not likely an isolated one, with biotech being one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and in Massachusetts, and other communities in the area are taking steps to attract this sort of company. Residents noted that other towns have regulations for laboratories and some have committees to oversee biotech companies and advise the Board of Health. At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Council President Mark Siders said steps will be taken in Watertown to increase oversight of biotech facilities. “Watertown falls a little short when regulating these types of laboratories,” Sideris said. A memo from Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon to the Town Council said that the Watertown Board of Health will develop a framework for overseeing biotech companies.
The Watertown Board of Health will consider strengthening restrictions on purchasing tobacco products in Watertown. The Watertown Board of Health sent out the following statement:
In the interest of enhancing the public health protection of Watertown’s youth and adult community, the Watertown Board of Health is proposing additional restrictions on the availability of tobacco products in Watertown. The Board invites all to offer comment on the proposed changes at a Public Hearing on November 15, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Town Administration Building located at 149 Main Street in Watertown. Proposed changes to the existing regulations include a ban on blunt wraps,
implementation of minimum pricing on single cigars, establishment of a 500 foot buffer around all schools on new Tobacco Sales Permits, and a cap on the number of Tobacco Permits that will be issued in Watertown. D.J. Wilson, Tobacco Control Director and Public Health Liaison for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, stated that “The proposed additions to the current Watertown ‘Regulation Regarding Smoking and the Sale and Use of Tobacco Products’ provide additional strategies to keep youth from starting to use tobacco products and to prompt current tobacco users to quit.
After hearing about research collected by some Watertown High School students, the Watertown Board of Health will look at possible changes to the town’s tobacco regulations. The students are Watertown Youth Coalition Peer Leaders – a program of the Wayside Multi-Service Center – and also take part in a statewide movement of youth fighting tobacco in their communities, said Dawn Graham, media and prevention specialist with Wayside. As part of the statewide anti-tobacco effort, called The 84 Movement, the students mapped where tobacco retailers are in town, and their proximity to schools, parks and places where teens hang out. “They found that there are more tobacco retailers in Watertown than there are schools, parks, and other teen hangouts combined,” Graham said. “They were concerned to see that most places teens spend time – including Watertown High School – are less than a 5 minute walk away from a retailer and that there is currently no cap on the number of retailers that can be in Watertown.”
A public hearing will be held to discuss raising the legal age of tobacco sales in Watertown. The current minimum age to buy tobacco products in Watertown is 19, but the proposal from the Board of Health would raise it to 21. The hearing will be held on Monday, Oct. 20 at 8:15 p.m. in the Council Chamber in Town Hall, 149 Main St. The town has two regulations for tobacco, and the Board of Health also seeks to combine them into one called “Regulation Regarding Smoking and the Sale and Use of Tobacco and Nicotine Delivery Products.”
“We hope this will eliminate any confusion finding all of the tobacco regulations in one place,” said an announcement by the Board of Health.