Updated 3:20 pm
Headed to Nancy’s? On your way to Mocha Mott’s? Then you better have a mask on.
On Thursday, the Oak Bluffs board of health approved a new regulation requiring mandatory mask use in the downtown area. The regulations go into effect Friday, July 17, at 8:30 am.
Following suit with Edgartown, failure to follow the regulations could result in a fine of $50 for a first offense, up to $300 for a fourth, or subsequent offenses. An order by Gov. Charlie Baker is already in effect, but it only requires mask wearing if social distancing can’t occur.
Health agent Meegan Lancaster said the police department is training three of its community service officers (CSO), who will be utilized as health ambassadors during their off-duty hours. Only the health ambassadors, board of health members, and health agent can issue fines for not wearing masks. The police won’t be used to enforce the regulation.
Board of health chairman William White said the CSOs would be specially trained to educate and enforce when it came to masks.
“We’re fortunate to be in a community where people are very aware, and people, most of them, understand the need to wear a mask, but that’s not everybody. We have a lot of visitors, and it can get very contentious,” White said.
Specifically, masks will be mandatory in the harbor district, B1 commercial district, B2 small-scale business district, Seaview Avenue from the intersection with Circuit Avenue Extension to the crosswalk across from Farm Pond, Lake Avenue between Kennebec and Seaview Avenues, and Ocean Avenue from the northerly point at Lake Avenue curving around Ocean Park and intersecting with Seaview Avenue at its southerly point. The area also includes Circuit and Kennebec Avenues, Niantic Park, Grove Avenue, and Uncas Avenue.
“This is basically saying you just need to wear a mask, be smart, wear a mask, we’ll help you, we’ll educate you, we’ll give you a mask,” board of health member Tom Zinno said.
Jackelyn Cavanaro, a medical worker, asked how the order would be enforced.
Lancaster said there will never be 100 percent compliance. She added that issues arise when someone says they can’t wear a mask due to a medical exemption, because they’re not allowed to ask further about medical issues.
Cavanaro, who works with eldery people on the Island, voiced concerns about tourists coming to the Island, and wanted to see more being done in terms of enforcement.
“The tourists do not wear [masks]. The people that live here, we are, day tourists do not wear them,” Cavanaro said. “The gentleman I care for and half the neighborhood around Tuckernuck could die just because of the fact they’re elderly, they have cancer, and they can’t go to the grocery store … Something else needs to be done for our safety. We can’t go out anywhere.”
Selectman Brian Packish commended the board of health for their efforts and said the mandatory order was the right step.
He also said he had been receiving a mixed bag of text messages from Oak Bluffs residents, some wanting a mandatory mask order, others saying it was unconstitutional. He worried about how the board of health would manage complaints.
“I think that you’re going to have to be relentless in your enforcement to attempt to find any significant level of change,” Packish said. “As I said, I’m a little bit on the pessimistic side of people’s willingness to comply, but I am hopeful that it does put a mask on at least one more person.”
Updated with more information. –Ed.