| Sarah Heinonen
EAST LONGMEADOW – East Longmeadow resident Justin McCarthy has spearheaded an effort to eliminate the town-wide mask mandate passed by the Board of Health.
McCarthy submitted a petition with 150 signatures to the Town Council seeking a repeal of the mandate. He summed up his motivation behind the petition, saying, “I believe, at this point, masks should be optional.” He went on to say, “If a private business wants to require masks for customers and employees, I don’t have a problem with that, as long as the town isn’t imposing it.”
The grounds for repeal cited by McCarthy include that it was passed at the Aug. 26 Board of Health meeting, despite not being included in the agenda. He filed an open meeting law complaint with the state about the incomplete agenda, stating “it is likely that the board members anticipated discussing the measure.”
McCarthy also claimed in the petition that, “many small business owners have lost clientele and income due to the mandate,” and that they “resent the ever-present threat of being fined by the town’s health inspector. It should be noted that, to date, no business has been fined since the mask mandate went into effect Aug. 28.
Finally, he offered a letter from a former Assistant Professor of Biology and Biostatistics at the University of Louisville, who conducted a study in which he found “very little evidence,” supporting mask mandates as useful in protecting against the transmission of COVID-19.
The Board of Health stated the opposite when it released its mandate, quoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Given what we know about the Delta variant, vaccine effectiveness and current vaccine coverage, layered prevention strategies, such as wearing masks, are needed to reduce the transmission of this variant.” The board asserted its authority for the action derived from M.G.L. Chapter 111, Section 31, which states “Boards of health may make reasonable health regulations.”
The charter provides that “a public hearing on any submitted petition with the required 100 signatures within three months of receipt,” said Town Clerk/Clerk of the Council Jeanne Quaglietti. She told Reminder Publishing that she has been in touch with McCarthy and “we’ve verified over 100 signatures as registered voters and a public hearing will be held at a future Town Council meeting.”