Sunday, May 19, 2024

An emergency order requiring masks in indoor public places was issued Friday by the city to take effect at 8 a.m. Sept. 3 for everyone over the age of 2 – a response to a surge in Covid-19 cases and the coronavirus’s highly contagious delta variant.

That includes retail establishments, restaurants and bars except while actively eating or drinking, performance venues, social clubs, houses of worship, event spaces, municipal buildings, personal care establishments and fitness establishments. Other indoor public places are included in the order as well.

The Centers for Disease Control said Cambridge’s level of community transmission is “substantial,” and said transmission is “high” in Middlesex County. The delta variant accounts for 86 percent of new infections in New England and the nation, the CDC said in figures cited by the city.

“With schools reopening and Covid-19 cases increasing due to the highly infectious delta variant, instituting this mask mandate for indoor public places is a critical measure to help minimize the spread of the virus,” Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said in the press release.

Vaccines are effective against the delta variant and do “an excellent job” of preventing serious illness and death, but do not always stop a vaccinated person from getting infected and spreading the virus to others, said Susan Breen, the city’s interim chief public health officer. “Masks offer another important layer of protection … regardless of vaccination status,” Breen said.

City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said the city would “take a data and science-informed approach to our pandemic response … as we have done throughout the pandemic.”

Free Covid testing expands to four days a week from three starting Sept. 8, after Labor Day. The program will offer tests on Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m. at 50 Church St., Harvard Square; Mondays from 4 to 8 p.m. at the CambridgeSide mall, 100 CambridgeSide Place, East Cambridge; Wednesdays from 2 to 6 pm at St. John the Evangelist Church, 2254 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge; and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., also at CambridgeSide. No appointments or identification is required.

The full text of the emergency order is here.