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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, October 2, 2023

Outdoor mask mandates lifted in Medford and Somerville, guidelines remain on Tufts' campus

President's Lawn is pictured on Sept. 6, 2020.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that as of April 30, masks would no longer be required in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is possible. Face coverings are still required in indoor and outdoor spaces where people cannot be less than six feet apart. Tufts is not changing any university policies in response to the announcement. 

The Tufts administration announced in an email to students on Friday morning that mask-wearing requirements indoors and outdoors will remain the same until more of the student population is fully vaccinated. 

“Vaccines prevent serious illness and death but do not prevent infection," the email said. "Currently, too few of our students have been fully vaccinated, and we cannot adopt an inequitable policy that would allow some students to forego masks while requiring others to wear them."

University Infection Control Health Director Michael Jordan said that the university will examine and potentially change its policies over the summer. 

“We will review all of our current public health safety protocols over the summer to make sure they are aligned with updated local, state and federal guidance, and in keeping with our approach throughout the pandemic, any revisions we make to our protocols will be data-based,” Jordan wrote in an email to the Daily. “As I have said before, the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter than ever before, but compliance with the university's public health safety protocols continues to be vitally important, including wearing masks.” 

Tufts is alone in its continued mask restrictions, as the Medford and Somerville city governments indicated that they would follow the state’s updated guidance. 

MaryAnn O’Connor, director of the Medford Board of Health, still urged continued social distancing and noted that masks are required for some outdoor and all indoor gatherings. 

“While we are cautiously optimistic, we want to reiterate that masks are still required as outlined in all MA sector specific guidance including schools, sports, businesses, retail and all indoor activities," O’Connor wrote in an email to the Daily. "Social distancing is where the emphasis should be if outdoors, and if attending events or gatherings at any outdoor public venue, masks are required even for those fully vaccinated."

Somerville’s government has also modified its guidelines in accordance with the state. 

“The City of Somerville will be joining the State in relaxing outdoor face covering guidelines," the city wrote in a press release shared with the Daily by Meghann Ackerman, deputy director of communications for the City of Somerville. "Starting Friday, April 30, residents will not have to wear a face covering when outdoors if they can socially distance. Masks will still be required in public indoor spaces, outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible, at large events, and at any City-permitted activities, including outdoor fitness and yoga classes. At smaller gatherings in private homes face coverings are recommended but not required.” 

At the same time, Somerville officials urged residents to continue following public health guidelines and remain as safe as possible. Director of Health and Human Services Doug Kress in particular noted that the relaxed guidance does not mean the virus has disappeared. 

“Throughout the pandemic we have followed the science and monitored local and state data so we are able to adjust our policies accordingly," Kress wrote in an email to the Daily. "We now know that outdoor transmission, especially when people can socially distance, is very low. But we do still need to be vigilant and remember to mask up when we can't distance from others or when we're indoors."