Oak Bluffs is latest town to lift outdoor mask order

Oak Bluffs has lifted its mandatory mask mandate. - Rich Saltzberg

The Oak Bluffs board of health Wednesday voted to rescind the local mask zone mandate for the downtown and harbor area for fully vaccinated individuals, as well as the local construction orders that were put in place at the start of the pandemic.

Oak Bluffs is the latest town to rescind their local orders and go with state guidance, following Edgartown and Tisbury.

Before this change, folks were required to be masked in all downtown areas in the down-Island towns.

Oak Bluffs health agent Meegan Lancaster said Gov. Charlie Baker accelerated the previous timetable for reopening with his order on Monday, which stated that the majority of the Commonwealth’s health restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.

Along with local mask requirements being dropped, local capacity limits for public and private gatherings and businesses are also being rescinded, and the state restrictions are taking over, until those restrictions are lifted May 29.

Local health orders related to construction sites are also being rescinded, and the sector-specific state guidance will dictate rules for construction sites.

Lancaster said there are some settings where masks will still be required, regardless of vaccination status: public transport and certain medical settings may continue to require mask wearing.

According to Lancaster, the local construction guidance that was established by the boards of health at the outset of the shutdown have since been incorporated into the sector-specific guidelines for all workplaces issued by the Commonwealth.

Oak Bluffs board of health member, Tom Zinno, said one of his biggest concerns is encouraging business owners to get their staff vaccinated in preparation for the upcoming season. He added that, to his understanding, business owners can also dictate who is admitted into a business, and who is not allowed in without a mask (vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals).

Lancaster said there has been robust outreach to businesses regarding vaccines, and she has had a number of conversations with food service operators who indicate their staff are fully vaccinated, and ready for reopening.

Oak Bluffs board of health member Jim Butterick voiced his concern that it will be impossible to determine if someone is vaccinated or not on a construction site.

“People who come over on the ferry are going to be wearing masks until they get off — whether they have been vaccinated or not, masks are going to disappear from construction sites,” Butterick said, and stressed that outreach is key for the construction sector.

Although the local restrictions are being lifted, Lancaster said, until May 29 there are still existing sector-specific safety protocols for construction sites, along with outdoor health mandates that require a mask be worn if someone can not adequately social distance at least six feet, regardless of vaccination status.