Tri-Town Health withdraws indoor mask directive in Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge | Coronavirus

Tri-Town Health withdraws indoor mask directive in Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge |  Coronavirus

It’s official: In Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, restaurants, bars, shops and other businesses, as well as public spaces, such as entertainment venues, no longer need to ask the public to mask up. interior.

The three-city health boards representing those communities voted unanimously on Thursday to rescind the mask directive first approved in September as the delta COVID-19 variant surged, followed by the omicron variant that emerged in December.

Tri-Town permit holders were notified Friday morning, said James Wilusz, executive director of the regional health agency. The removal of the directive took effect immediately, based on the drop in the number of pandemic coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in South Berkshire and the rest of the county.

Wilusz pointed out that the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that masks are still required in certain places, such as some transportation and health care facilities. School districts are making their own decisions about masking and other pandemic-related policies.

The CDC recommended last week that masking continue for people who are not fully vaccinated, although it is not a requirement. Masking is always suggested for people who are at high risk themselves or who live with a vulnerable family member. Consultation with family physicians is suggested.

Vaccination remains the most effective protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, the CDC’s updated guidelines point out. Massachusetts Health Advisory stay closely aligned with federal recommendations, based on advice from the state Department of Public Health.

“For those concerned, they should try to mask up when they can, but I think the directive has served its purpose here,” Wilusz told members of the health board during the town hall meeting via Zoom. It will be job on Community TV for the South Berkshires Government’s main public access channel 1303.

“This masking directive, although it was never a mandate, actually saved lives,” Wilusz said. He praised the majority of the Tri-Town community for “stepping up, knowing it wasn’t a mandate, but they did the right thing.”

Individual businesses and other places of public gathering remain free to choose their own approach to masking.

After the Tri-Town Health Boards voted 8-0 to remove the masking guideline, Dr. Charles Kenny, the chairman, said: “We should all be happy; it is very good. This is at a very important stage.

“I think we can be a lot more confident that we’ve pushed this disease back,” he said. “We may need to get a new set of vaccines, but it will end up feeling like the flu; that’s what I hope.

He urged “a positive note” while acknowledging that many people have suffered, including the elderly and children. Mental health issues have emerged and need to be closely monitored and addressed by local health boards, he added.

“I worry about the next generation of children, over the next five years into school age, who are developmentally behind,” said JoAnn Sullivan, a member of Lee’s board of health and a teacher from maternal. “There should be huge summer programs, things to help these kids catch up. It’s a school problem, but also a mental health problem. Lenox just got school comfort dogs for kids who are so stressed.

Wilusz pointed out that the Southern Berkshire Public Health Collaborative, a consortium of 10 cities, is exploring potential collaborations with local schools on mental health issues.

“We are all beginning to understand how we can bring multiple organizations together so that we can move forward on the ramifications caused by this pandemic,” he said.