There was no motion or vote, but board member Emily Mitchell commented that considering the older demographic usually is well represented at the event, a mask policy would be “a reasonable and kind thing to do for our fellow community members.”
Annual Town Meeting is scheduled to begin on the evening of Monday, March 28, in Bedford High School’s Buckley Auditorium. The last two annual town meetings have taken place outdoors.
Even if Covid-19 case counts continue to decline, face-covering is “a reasonable thing to do,” Mitchell added. Town Manager Sarah Stanton told the board the most recent two-week local tally of new cases is 89.
Stanton introduced the option at Monday’s virtual board meeting, reporting that her office has received “feedback from many residents” asking for the town meeting masking requirement.
Board Chair Margot Fleischman agreed that “it’s worth considering the comfort level of people coming. Something that we are always concerned about is that we don’t put up barriers to people’s participation.”
Mitchell acknowledged that it would be helpful to allow speakers to remove their masks. Board member William Moonan pointed out that facial expressions are part of the “body language” that can determine the effectiveness of a speaker’s argument.
Perhaps seats close to the aisle microphones could be taped, Mitchell said. Stanton moted that there are no social-distancing considerations in play.
Asked later about the authority to implement the requirement, Health and Human Services Director Heidi Porter explained by email that the Select Board – like any private businesses and public venues – “can set their own rules.”
She wrote, “It’s my understanding that if the venue has no requirement, many venues are allowing users/performers to set their own protocols.” The BHS Performing Arts Department has already announced that masks will be required to attend the March 19 matinee performance of the spring musical.
Stanton also noted Monday that state officials have extended the deadline for holding government meetings remotely from April 1 to July 15. The board did not talk about returning to in-person meetings.
The town manager also said there are still plenty of Covid -19 self-test kits available at Town Hall.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763