Board of Health Votes 3-2 to Rescind Bedford’s Mask Mandate

February 14, 2022

The Board of Health voted 3-2 Monday night to end its indoor mask mandate, effective Feb. 28.

That date is coterminous with an end to the same requirement in schools, as announced last week by state officials.

Member Ann Kiessling, who has campaigned against the efficacy of masks at board meetings for weeks, made the motion. Voting to support the motion were members Susan Schwartz and Maureen Richichi, who successfully amended it to include a detailed advisory—including mask recommendations—that will be discussed at the Feb. 28 health board meeting.

The board has consistently opposed revoking the mask mandate in businesses and other spaces accessible to the public by a 4-1 margin. But last week’s decision by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and recent sharp declines in various Covid-19 metrics have changed the paradigm.

Indeed, even the two members who voted against the motion, chair Anita Raj and member Bea Brunkhorst, said their primary concern was the impact of the schools’ February vacation week on virus transmission. They preferred to wait another week to rescind, depending on the data.

If the motion had not prevailed, the board would have had to consider overriding School Superintendent Philip Conrad’s intention to concur with the DESE ruling. The health board’s jurisdiction is townwide, including schools, in a public health emergency.

Monday night’s virtual meeting was planned to last for an hour, but took 130 minutes, beginning with 45 minutes of public comment. Participant opinions during the comment session were evenly divided.

The decision, as Kiessling pointed out, “is what we talked about at the last meeting.” The other ‘off-ramp’ discussed on Feb. 7 was a decline in hospitalization rates.

Monday’s meeting was not regularly scheduled—the board had not planned to reconvene until Feb. 28, but last week’s announcement from Gov. Charles Baker and DESE pushed the schedule forward, Raj said.

A detailed account of Monday night’s discussion will appear in The Citizen on Tuesday.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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Jon "OC" OConnor
February 17, 2022 11:36 am

Thank you !

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