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Cambridge joins Somerville, will require public face covering starting Wednesday

People in Cambridge will have to mask up when out in public starting Wednesday morning, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis DePasquale announced tonight.

Somerville had earlier announced a public mask requirement that also starts Wednesday. However, Cambridge's requirement, which also comes with a potential $300 fine for violators, starts at age 5, rather than 2 as in Somerrville.

Also like Somerville, Cambridge is giving people a week's grace period before police start enforcement. Police will start with attempting to educate people and may issue warnings to those who do not cooperate - but will be empowered to issue $300 fines to people who "willingly" refuse to comply.

In a statement, Siddiqui and DePasquale said:

While we are grateful to those in Cambridge who have been heeding our previous mask advisory and taking this issue seriously, we are concerned about the number of residents who continue to shop, walk, run and bike throughout the city without proper face coverings. We must all do our part in flattening the curve and make sure we are preventing the further spread of COVID-19. This mandate emphasizes the importance of wearing a face covering, not as an option, but as a requirement in our effort to combat this pandemic together.

The mandate includes publicly accessible stores and buildings - and includes the workers in them - as well as common areas in residential buildings with two or more units.

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Comments

Is it me or does it seem like we are doing things now that should have been done 4 weeks ago?

Police aren’t going to enforce these rules either, I guarantee you that. They might say something, but you won’t see any enforcement.

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They really shouldn't. If anything they should scold you and then give you a mask to put on. It'd be way cooler and probably more effective to have the police handing out masks instead of tickets.

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If this is such a big deal, why are we only requiring it now?

Staying home / limiting contact seems like much more of an issue, unless the epidemiology of the thing has changed in the past couple of weeks.

For my money:

Face coverings in medical settings: essential

Face coverings in close contact settings (food stores, essential businesses): useful, although since they're not N-95 stuff is still getting out by and large, just not spreading as far.

Face coverings in elevators/stairwells/etc: Not sure what it helps, since these are generally inert areas (thanks, fire code) so if you breathe stuff out it'll hang out there, face covering or not, but maybe less will get out? Maybe.

Face coverings on crowded sidewalks outdoors: Maybe useful? But stuff disperses/evaporates in wind pretty quickly.

Face coverings on not-crowded streets/sidewalks/paths, especially when exercising: As your face covering gets wet it becomes less and less effective, becomes more burdensome to wear, and you're more likely to take it off, plus you're keeping more moisture near you so is that good?

Plus, this runs the high risk of becoming a boy who cried wolf thing. If people become cavalier with their face mask wearing (or not wearing, or certainly not wearing them well/correctly, see the people I've seen with face masks covering only their mouth but not nose) then when they actually should be wearing them correctly they'll feel like they've done something.

I'd like to know whether there is any scientific data behind this or if it's just politicians ways of feeling like they've done something after we started too late. It would have done a lot more good to close the bars the day before Saint Patrick's Day than require face masks now.

(I can't wait until we have very little community transmission and a vaccine and we're still requiring face masks, too.)

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Voting closed 54

Yes, there is scientific data that masks are effective at keeping you from sharing your germs. Your breath/coughs/sneezes go straight out in front of you as vapor or droplets and get absorbed by the mask for the most part. Since we now know that people are infectious before becoming symptomatic, we can't just say to wear a mask if you're sick because you may not know that you have COVID-19.

At first it wasn't being recommended because masks aren't as effective at keeping you from inhaling other people's germs, since they aren't that tightly sealed so air can get in around the edges. The ones that are most effective need to be reserved for healthcare workers.

Should we have started sooner? Yes. But better to start late than not at all.

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Yeah. We have long said that if you are sick and have to go out, you need to be wearing a mask to protect others.

The reality has sunk in that people are contagious before they experience symptoms and now the reality is really sinking in that some, possibly a significant percentage, of those infected will be contagious and never develop obvious symptoms through the end of their active infection.

We must assume we all have it, and take the necessary precautions.

And now that we are starting to look towards "reopening" we know the virus is still in our population. If everyone, including those asymptomatic carriers, goes out and tries to get towards anything resembling normal, we are going to have a huge spike in new cases.

We need to prevent those infections. We failed at containment the first time around, but that doesn't mean we need to fail at containment in round 2.

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To Ari's point, is there evidence that brief outdoor exposure within 6' is likely to be contagious?

When I've seen experts comment, they say we must wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces (if we can't avoid them). Then they add, welllllllll, to be exxxxtra safe, I guess it's best to wear a mask outdoors unless you're completely alone, just in case. Their hearts don't seem to be in that portion of their recommendations.

I'd love to see a study showing the actual risk of, say, brief passing on the sidewalk.

Disclaimer;. I've been wearing masks on my daily walk, but I often take it off when I can't see anyone else within a block of my path.

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I know the Covid-19 is different than the flu, but do we know for a fact why regular flu deaths peak in Feb? Is the regular flu rate (death rate) the same in MA that it is in TX, FL, Mexico, South Korea or Morocco?

I guess what I'm asking is if we will see a decrease in Covid deaths simply because the seasons are changing, and we know that flu rates go down (without lockdowns, social distancing, masks) in the spring and summer anyway, so couldn't we expect decreases in Covid cases as well? And we won't know whether or not these decreases are a result of the precautionary measures or seasonal change will we?

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Influenza thrives in winter because it's more transmissible in cold dry weather. There was some hopeful thinking that coronavirus would behave the same way, but based on what's happened in Singapore, it doesn't seem so.

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https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2013/03/study-flu-likes-weat...

Flu epidemics strike during the winter in temperate regions, but the seasonality of flu is less clear in the tropics, where outbreaks tend to occur during rainy seasons or year-round. The findings suggest that rain and humidity are key factors in tropical regions, while adding further evidence that cold and dryness are important in temperate areas. They fit with previous research showing that flu viruses survive longer in dry air.

Singapore is a tropical climate which has different rates of outbreaks than a temperate climate would right? So that would or should be consistent with flu numbers?

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Different outbreaks of what?

So that would or should be consistent with flu numbers?

I don't see any reason to assume that. They are two different viruses.

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And we know that the regular flu doesn’t need cold or dry air to spread in a place like Singapore. That’s all I’m saying. Swirly made it more clear by examining the pandemic phase concept, but I’m still assuming we have no idea what type of climate covid can and cannot thrive in yet correct?

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We still don't know. Glad Swirly is here to provide the in-depth - more information is better.

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Pandemic illnesses don't follow the flu "rules". Even the novel H1N1 didn't. Why?

  • Novel and pandemic viral illnesses can pop up anywhere at any time and start their journey. H1N1 didn't circulate Asia - it popped out in North America. SydneyA is a classic rule breaker: wrong place, wrong season, extremely infectious, and there weren't the obvious pig-bird dynamics involved.
  • There is no vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 and may not be much latent crossover immunity from having related viruses before (although the Pine Street Inn and USS Theodore Roosevelt might say otherwise. It would be interesting if teachers were underrepresented in the hospitals)
  • The "flu cycle" is so well established that researchers doing time series studies of non-accidental and respiratory mortality can use smoothed functions to subtract out flu impacts from mortality and morbidity data. Seasonal flu is very amenable to mathematical modeling given a few local parameters (vaccination rates, elder population, weather) and data over a few years
  • The seasonal cycle is related to distance and time - each area peaks at different times, but it is predictable enough that flu strains for the next year for us are usually already coming out of Asia. Europe peaks with the flu after we do - I worked on a time series in Ireland and another in France and it was a March-April peak. The wave usually finishes the two season cycle in the former eastern bloc, then runs into resistant populations in Asia - although some strains circulate for years.
  • Seasonal flu isn't nearly as infectious (in population terms) as a novel pandemic virus like the current bug. That's why the spread is slow and predictable. It is a matter of population resistance and the inherent properties of most flu viruses. So it spreads like a slow wave, usually from Asia to North America to Europe and then back through Asia.
  • Seasonal flu tends to peak higher in warmer years ... we were headed for a bad year in 2015 and then we were all quarantined by the snow. You can see the big drop from early to mid February! But these winter effects are local - the west coast tends to be hit earlier in the season, and the south has different dynamics for heating and travel.
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    There should be some climate data and studies at some point correct? Are we just not there yet?

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    Wuhan is described in the air pollution literature as an "oven city". It is famous for people setting up cots on major highway medians just to catch passing breezes on summer nights! If it doesn't burn out there over the summer, chances are it won't.

    With the flu, cool dry air is less of an issue than people crowding indoors. On the west coast, where things are more temperate, college housing from the early part of the 20th century had sleeping porches - covered, screened, open air barracks for students to sleep on, as a way to prevent spreading all sorts of airborne disease.

    Like I said above, pandemic illnesses tend not to follow the rules of their sibling viruses. The main thing that changes around here in the summer is that schools are out, colleges are depopulated, and a lot of people are on vacation in a given week.

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    No those are superficial changes:

    The major changes around here for the Summer -- is the Summer Weather -- Boston in the Summer is typically: moderately hot and humid with a moderate to high amount of UV penetrating through the atmosphere to the surface

    As the recent report by DHS Science / Technology Div. of work done by U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Special Pathogens Laboratory at Fort Detrick in MD which shows that:
    1. the SARS-COV-2 virus is rapidly degraded in an environment with high humidity much more characteristic of being outside in the Summer than inside or outside in the Winter
    2. In addition -- the exposure to sunlight [characteristic of Summer] rapidly disinfects both surfaces and the air.

    Like all of the major Chinese Mega Cities -- Wuhan is very polluted and hence will not have the kind of wide-open UV-rich Sunlight of say the Gobi Desert. Admittedly, the worst pollution is in the Winter, when a lot of emissions comes from burning fuel used for heating -- no need for that in the Summer and since there is minimal air conditioning power consumption is down.

    However I would think that a better test city than Wuhan for the "Summer Effect" is Seoul. First the Korean data is probably more reliable. Like Boston -- Seoul is both hot and very humid most of the Summer with a lot of UV penetration to sea level.

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    People have best intentions to stay 6 feet apart, but constant vigilance is not sustainable. People walk to close, don't pay attention. We are talking about distracted people out in the real world, not ideal conditions.

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    Lol.

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    Yeah. Now that we're at or near the peak, let's START requiring preventive measures.

    Brilliant, quick thinking by our local leaders.

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    and if this pandemic has taught us anything it is that a significant portion of people will only adopt behaviors beneficial to the common good if they are compelled.

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    I haven’t seen any plans regarding this. Do you have any info?

    I too would like to see some actual studies on some of these measures, not just infographics. On another post, someone posted an article about a runners study, but experts questioned the validity.

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    Are these requirements enforceable on MBTA buses and trains that travel through Cambridge and Somerville?

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    Cambridge provides a link to the actual text of the order.

    Somerville, on the other hand, last time I checked, had a public announcement summarizing the order, but the actual text of the order was nowhere to be found on the city's website.

    Suggestion: If you want people to follow the rules, make it easy for them to find and read the rules.

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    These types of laws really should be made at the state level. It's not possible to keep track of all the variations in policy from one city to the next.

    For example, if you have a 3-year-old, they don't need a mask in Cambridge, but if you need to walk across the city line to the Inman Square Walgreens, they need a mask. And which city is the Porter Star Market in again?

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    I’m going out today in public but will not see anyone. I am going to be in the woods nature bathing completely alone but still need a mask. Pishah. Thanks Kurtacoooky.

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    In public in the city of Somerville where you will be totally alone. Somerville has the highest population density in New England.

    So if you plan to "nature bathe" by yourself, put your damn pants back on. That's a public bike path.

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    There used to be a small patch of woods between Woodbine Street and Central Street. The city cut down the trees and built what is now Somerville Junction Park in its place.

    I can't think of any place in Somerville that I would now call wooded, other than small strips along Alewife Brook and the Mystic River -- both of which are well-populated places with paved paths along them.

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    My husband likes to head into the Fells late at night and he still encounters people hiking at that time.

    I can't think of anywhere you can go at pretty much any time where you would be that alone.

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    Last night channel 7 did an investigative report on N95 masks made in China. Scientists at MIT concluded that the masks are defective and useless. These are the same masks that police and fire departments across the commonwealth are using. So if I walk through Somerville not wearing a defective mask I will be stopped asked to produce my papers fined 300 dollars and handed a defective mask to wear.

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    How did you get a defective Chinese-manufactured N95 mask? Oh right, you don't have one. Stop rationalizing your selfish desire to not even do the bare minimum, ie covering your mouth and nose in public, and thereby putting your: neighbors, grocery store workers, medical professionals, elderly folks, and people with underlying conditions at additional risk for infection of a potentially deadly disease.

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    A defective N95 mask for a professional who needs that level of protection is a problem for sure. But the public is not being required to wear N95 masks. They're supposed to wear basic masks/face coverings, as these do still provide a level of protection that is better than wearing nothing, mainly to others. There's no such thing as a defective face mask for the average person.

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    These are the same masks that police and fire departments across the commonwealth are using.

    Assertion without evidence. You cannot know that the masks that MIT found defective are the same as the ones that first responders use.
    1.) I seriously doubt that all first responders' masks are from the same source.
    2.) Much of the regular supply of N95 masks has been coming from China, for years, including 3M-branded masks.

    Claiming all masks made in China are defective, because some masks made in China were found to be defective is stupid, and seems calculated to cause anxiety in people who must use them.

    Stop being stupid. It won't kill you to wear a mask, and it at least shows some respect for people. Which comments like that one do not.

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    My god, the pissing and moaning of people who want to know why this wasn't done in February (when our national government was actively spreading misinformation about the virus), and therefore why bother now. It's like asking someone to explain to you why to bother getting the fire extinguisher when you could have just, y'know, not dropped that flaming match in the wastebasket. And the rules lawyers with their transparently insincere "I'm just askings" about corner cases (real or imaginary).

    If you're asking the question, you just demonstrated that you lack the intelligence or honesty to understand the answer.

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    Outdoor transmission of COVID-19 has not been found to be significant. This preprint looked at contact tracing in China outside Wuhan and found only one case (two infections) of outdoor transmission, and it was due to a conversational and not transient encounter:

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058v1

    On the other hand, it is likely we will shift to masks for public indoor spaces over time anyway as other restrictions are relaxed. That will happen law or not, but might make sense to legislate.

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    This is a preprint and hasn't been refereed. Only the abstract was available at that link, so it wasn't clear whether it addressed the inherent bias in contact tracing. If you do contact tracing by asking people to name everyone they've come into contact with, do you expect them to include strangers they passed in the street? If they do, how do you trace those strangers?

    Contact tracing is a good way of making sure that those most likely to be infected are those most likely to be tested. It doesn't seem like a very good way of determining the mechanisms of transmission.

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    But you'd think if they contact trace a lot of people, and outdoor transmission is possible, they would turn up at least some documented cases.

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    Aside from the near absolute uselessness of wearing a mask outdoors -- Cambridge which cancelled its Globally Significant Science Festival must feel at least a bit ashamed to be following's Somerville lead in this edict.

    Ostensibly home to [or at least work place of] nearly countless Nobel Prize Winners and the recognized home of two of the top 10 or so Global Research Universities -- Cambridge has to fall in line because of Somerville's science?

    At least let's see some real Cambridge-level Science behind the edict -- if you can find it

    Here's some science which seems to contradict Outdoor Masks:

    1. First some recent data on the incidence of COVID-19 in MA in general and Middlesex County in particular
      1. 98% of the deaths assigned to the COVID-19 are associated with people in their 70'+ who have a pre-existing co-morbidity factor and / or who have been recently hospitalized for something -- this is the signature of someone in a Nursing Home.
      2. More than 50% of the Hospitalizations associated with the COVID-19 have the same signature
    2. So -- most of the people who have that signature are not out on the street -- they are living in an Nursing Home, or an equivalent place which is relatively shielded from ambient exposure to the virus and the general public
    3. Now as for being outside versus inside: we have the recently report by DHS Science / Technology Div. of work done by U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Special Pathogens Laboratory at Fort Detrick in MD which shows that:
      1. the SARS-COV-2 virus is rapidly degraded in an environment with high humidity much more characteristic of being outside than inside.
      2. In addition -- the exposure to sunlight rapidly disinfects both surfaces and the air.
    4. MIT's recent work and some earlier work shows that:
      1. in addition to the known and relatively well understood emission of large and small infected aerosol droplets with a range of a couple of meters [6 ft]
      2. there is a cloud of warm moist air within which individual virons or infected micro-droplets [cloud droplet size] can hitch a ride.
      3. This cloud will surround and gradually spread out from the emitter, in infected but asymptomatic person [who coughs, sneezes, spits, talks, laughs, sings, or just breathes]
      4. Unless the ambient temperature is above that of the emitted air [body temperature] the cloud will be buoyant and rapidly ascend.
      5. In the pretense of any amount wind the ascending cloud will be dispersed with a rapidly dropping concentration of the virus
      6. As noted previously the sun will rapidly "cook" the virus rendering it non-infectious
    5. As has been noted previously -- the mask does virtually nothing to protect the wearer as few masks are fitted to block unfiltered air entrance between the mask and the wearer's face -- The primary function of the mask is to catch the potentially infected droplets being emitted by you -- assuming that you have the COVID-19 disease but are asymptomatic

    Combine all of the above and there is very little justification to wear a mask out on the streets, walking trails, in parks or even plazas unless the wearers are engaged in close-contact sports, dancing, crowded in a stadium, or the like.

    So -- Indoors -- wear a mask as it can make a difference in terms of you [as a potentially asymptomatic infected person] who is emitting and contaminating the surroundings. This is particularly true for confined spaces with minimal ventilation and low ceilings.

    Outdoors -- wear a mask as the fashion accessory of the day -- or to show your solidarity with the Medical and Emergency Personnel who are on the "Front Line" in the War against the COVID-19. It wont do much to protect you and its hardly likely to do much for anyone else -- however in Somerville, Brookline, Winthrop and now Cambridge it might keep you from getting a ticket for "wanton spreading of the SARS-COV-2 virus"

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    Allowed Green Line Extension construction to continue during the crisis. He should start enforcing the mask requirement on all construction workers and detail cops who are working in his city.

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