Face Mask Advisory

Winchester Board of Health – May 23, 2022

Winchester is currently experiencing a COVID-19 surge as is Middlesex County and most of the state. The Center for Disease Control has designated Middlesex County as a county with a HIGH transmission, and indoor settings pose the greatest risk.  Masks, vaccines and testing are critical tools in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our vulnerable population.

The Winchester Board of Health and Health Department continuously review local and regional case count data, MWRA wastewater data, hospital admissions and hospital capacity data. Over the past few weeks, there have been rising case numbers in town and in schools and a high test positivity rate in Winchester. Due to widespread use of home testing, these case counts likely underestimate the true prevalence of cases. 

As a result, the Winchester Board of Health believes that it is in the best interest of the community for all individuals, both unvaccinated and vaccinated, to resume wearing a mask in all indoor public spaces.

 The Board of Health strongly recommends that all individuals wear a well-fitting mask at all times in all school buildings. For eating at schools, the Board of Health strongly recommends that measures be taken to allow for eating outside or in venues with adequate distancing capacity. The Board of Health believes that these school measures are important mitigation approaches to limit disease spread among students and reduce disruptions due to student and staff absenteeism.

 The Board of Health also strongly recommends universal masking indoors in all public buildings, including the Town Hall, Winchester Library, Department of Public Works buildings, the Recreation Building, the Public Safety Building and The Jenks Center (the Jenks Center also requires proof of vaccination).

 The Winchester Board of Health further strongly recommends that all residents and community members: 

  1. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination. Check the town’s webpage (winchester.us) for upcoming clinics held by the Health Department. Boosters are now recommended by the CDC for all individuals ages 5 years and older.
  2. Avoid crowded indoor spaces whenever possible.
  3. Wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces such as graduations or sporting or music events.
  4. Dine outdoors if you can and wear a mask as much as possible if dining indoors.
  5. Stay home if you have any symptoms.
  6. Test if you have symptoms (do not assume a stuffy nose is a cold or allergies). A positive test may take several days before showing up on an antigen test so it is advisable to retest for multiple days. Home antigen tests indicate active infection. Check the town webpage for local testing opportunities. Test before gathering with others outside of your household and especially before visiting high risk populations (elderly and immunocompromised).

The Mask Mandate for Winchester will be lifted on Monday, February 21, 2022.  

After reviewing local and state COVID data, the BOH voted unanimously on February 17, 2022, to rescind the current requirement for everyone to mask in indoor public places.

Winchester will follow the mask advisory of the MA Department of Public Health found here: 

COVID-19 Mask Requirements | Mass.gov

DPH advises in part:

  • A fully vaccinated person should wear a mask or face covering when indoors (and not in your own home) if you have a weakened immune system, if you are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system and is at increased risk for severe disease or is unvaccinated.
  • Individuals who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a face covering or mask when indoors with others to help prevent spreading COVID-19.
  • Individuals who have tested positive or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 must follow the isolation and quarantine guidance which includes wearing a mask in public for 5 more days after leaving isolation or quarantine on Day 5, regardless of vaccination status.
  • All people in Massachusetts (regardless of vaccination status) are required to continue wearing face coverings in certain settings, including on public transportation and in health care facilities.  Please see www.mass.gov/maskrules for a complete list of venues where face coverings have remained mandatory since May 29, 2021.