As local concerns continue to increase regarding the absence of proper facial coverings and the lack of appropriate social distancing efforts in grocery stores throughout the city, the Pittsfield Health Department issued formal guidance to all stores on Tuesday reinforcing the state’s guidelines on these protective measures.
The letter was emailed to 36 grocery stores and supermarkets and was signed by both the city’s Health Director, Gina Armstrong, and Dr. Alan Kulberg, chair of the Pittsfield Board of Health.
The communication references the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s April 7 order on social distancing in grocery stores and the department’s April 10 advisory on facial coverings and cloth masks to support the city’s compliance initiatives especially in “situations where it is difficult to maintain a social distance of six feet from others.”
Armstrong said the letter was a necessary action as reports have been shared with the Health Department, as well as with the local press and social media, noting a lack of compliance in local stores over the past several days.
She said city health officials take this information very seriously and are committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of the public.
“We know that because grocery stores are an essential resource during these times, these places are going to be populated on a daily basis. We want to ensure that the measures are firmly in place to protect both patrons and those working in these environments,” Armstrong said. “We are committed to working collaboratively with our community partners to ensure the public’s safety.”
Beginning April 15, city health officials will be inspecting grocery stores throughout the city to monitor compliance. Additionally, store management will be asked to submit a plan on how they will manage the number of shoppers in their locations.
Kulberg said it is essential to remember why these precautions are necessary.
“The underlying rationale is that a significant number of people can transmit the COVID-19 virus when minimally symptomatic or even when not demonstrating any symptoms,” Kulberg stated. “Therefore, it must be assumed that any individual is potentially contagious, regardless of outward appearance.”
To help streamline the acquisition of masks for local stores, Armstrong said her department has been in contact with Berkshire Seamsters, a group of private citizens who sew masks that are washable and meets the standard described in the order. The group has already provided 100 masks to Stop and Shop in North Adams. For more information or to place an order, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please contact the Health Department at 499-9411.