Updated May 14
A team of Edgartown officials took to the downtown streets Friday morning to remove signage requiring masks and face coverings.
During the mass sign removal, downtown Edgartown seemed to return to a sense of normalcy as people were getting their morning coffee and doing some early shopping — many without their masks.
“It’s a satisfying milestone,” health agent Matt Poole said. “We did an excellent job, and I’m half-speechless, to tell you the truth.”
Poole said while there were some bumps in the road, the entire community stepped up over the past year to reach this point.
Poole was joined by town administrator James Hagerty, Police Chief Bruce McNamee, and Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer.
“It means things are getting better, but it doesn’t mean that it’s over,” Hagerty said. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
“We’re delighted to see these come down,” McNamee said.
Schaeffer added that removing the signs gave him a sense of progress. “It’s a step in the right direction,” he said.
People are no longer required to wear masks in the town centers of Tisbury and Edgartown, but should still mask up if they cannot maintain six feet of distance from others, health officials said Thursday.
The loosening of mask requirements in downtown areas comes as Island boards of health begin reverting from local mask ordinance back to state guidelines. Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker lifted requirements to wear masks outdoors unless individuals are unable to socially distance themselves.
Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said Tisbury has rescinded its local mask order, and Hagerty confirmed that the board of health has also lifted the downtown mask order. “They’ve decided to revert to the state guidance on masking outside, which is just to mask if you can’t be six feet or more away from people. Masks will also be required for events and things like that, and indoors in any businesses and stores,” Valley said.
Before this change, towns required that folks be masked anywhere in their downtown areas.
She noted that Oak Bluffs is expected to vote on dropping the local mask mandate and going with state regulations.
“I have sent an email to the Department of Public Works asking that they take the mandatory mask signs down around town, so that is happening now,” Valley said.
She added that Edgartown and Tisbury have both abrogated their local construction orders, which were put in place at the beginning of the pandemic. “The state has guidance in place for construction and worksites. Basically, in Tisbury at least, all the local orders have been rescinded, and we have reverted to following the state guidelines,” she said.
From talking to those in town, Valley said, a fair number of people will continue to wear masks in public spaces, whether they are near someone or not.
“A lot of people just seem to feel more comfortable with them,” she said, but noted that the risk of transmitting COVID to someone while passing by them on the sidewalk momentarily is low.
“When you are outside, if you are in a group or you are going to be in a congested area, definitely wear a mask,” Valley said. “But even if you are just walking up the street, and you walk by somebody within six feet, technically you should have a mask on, but realistically when you are just walking by them, it’s only a couple of seconds — you aren’t going to be in close proximity long enough to transmit anything.”