Chatham Drops Mask Mandate, More Tests on the Way

CHATHAM – With new daily COVID cases on the decline, local officials are being faced with the decision of whether to continue with mask mandates and other public safety guidance. 

In Chatham, health officials have decided that they would take a more relaxed approach, rescinding their mask mandate in town buildings for meetings by unanimous vote on Monday. 

Town Natural Resources Director Dr. Robert Duncanson said that case numbers have dropped off dramatically at the local level, with the average 14-day percent positivity rate fast approaching the below-5-percent threshold that indicates the end of an outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Hopefully, that slope continues with this Thursday’s number. And if it does I wouldn’t be at all surprised that we will be below that 5 percent threshold. But as you know, we’ve been there before and then we’ve seen several surges that have taken us above that line,” Duncanson told board of health members. 

“But hopefully, the worst of the Omicron variant is definitely over.”

Board members had considered waiting on the issue for another week until further data could be collected, but with the trend continuing on a sharp decline, members said that the decision of whether or not to wear a face covering can be left up to residents.

They also added that if another variant were to develop and cases go on the rise again, they will enact another mandate if need be. 

“If they’re uncomfortable playing pickleball without the mask on some people, they can choose not to,” said member Noble Hansen, who said his own men’s club group would continue wearing masks through their March 4 meeting.

“But that’s our group’s choice and I think that’s the way it should be. Not through order or mandate,” said Hansen. 

To help mitigate the spread of the virus, free COVID self-test kits will be distributed this Wednesday by the town from 2 pm to 4:30 pm, or until supply runs out. 

One kit, each containing two tests, will be given per member of a household.

The distribution will be for Chatham residents only via a drive through method at the town office annex. Proof of residency will be required.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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