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The Reading Board of Health should be commended for enacting a mask mandate at the Senior Center at their 12/28 meeting. That is not enough as we face the threat of the highly transmittable Omicron variant. All Reading residents should have increased protection against Omicron.
We need a town-wide mask mandate to be implemented immediately. Researchers found nationally that coronavirus cases were more than two times higher in counties without a mask mandate than those with a mask policy. Hospitalizations were also 1.4 times higher in no-mask counties.
Health Director Solarin indicated similar trends among Reading’s neighboring communities, lower covid infection rates with mask mandates in place.
A town-wide mask mandate will help to soften what is expected to be a crushing winter surge of covid cases. Most health experts believe that January 2022 will see the highest number of covid infections since the start of the pandemic. The forecasted numbers are truly bleak.
While being fully vaccinated will lessen the covid impact, health experts believe that even mild or asymptomatic infections can result in Long Covid. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Network Open regarding long covid estimates that at least 50 percent of those who survive their initial illness go on to experience a number of physical, psychological, and neurological symptoms for a minimum of six months. Health experts just don’t have enough data to say we are completely safe once fully vaccinated.
I urge the Reading BoH to protect not only all Reading residents but Reading businesses with a mask mandate. Mask mandates are the opposite of closures or shutdowns as they allow us to safely share space. One business study showed that consumers were 51% more likely to enter a business were everyone was wearing a mask and 13% less likely to enter a business where only half were wearing a mask. Mask mandates translate into greater consumer confidence. Our businesses and their employees should feel as supported by a mask mandate as our seniors.
Please urge the Bord of Health to implement a mask mandate immediately, time is of the essence.
Nancy Docktor PMHCNS-BC