Worcester Board of Health votes to rescind mask mandate

WORCESTER, Mass. — Worcester’s Board of Health voted Monday night to lift the city’s mask mandate starting February 18.

“We don’t want anyone to feel we’re just washing our hands of this and we’re so done with COVID,” said Dr. Michael Hirsh, medical director for the Board of Health. “That’s not how public health works.”

Dr. Hirsh presented new data Monday night, showing the drop in COVID-19 cases in Worcester with hospitalizations down by more than 50 percent.

Because of these trends, he recommended the city can safely lift its mask mandate for public places indoors.

“We’re not telling people to have mask burning parties or throw away their mask,” said Dr. Hirsh. “There will be future outbreaks, but hopefully it’ll be of a kind that will not be devastating results that we saw from the delta and from the omicron surge.”

The board of health passed this recommendation 3 to 2 after two hours of discussion.

Not everyone agreed with the move.

“My concern was if there’s any consideration in terms of delaying this until - we know respiratory viruses tend to be worse in the winter and spring is coming,” said Khanh-Van Tran, a board of health member. “If a better time might be a littler later.”

Two board of health members said it was too early for the public to ditch their masks, but now that this passed – the mask mandate will end on February 18 in Worcester.

“So many people here in the city of Worcester, most of us have reached a point where we’re very, very tired,” said Gary Rosen, a board of health member. “We’re mentally, we’re emotionally, we’re socially tired and there comes a time when our government can say to us, you’re safe, and I think that’s what we’re hearing now.”

The board of health recommends people still wear masks if they’re over the age of 75, have a medical condition, or if they’re unvaccinated.

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