PITTSFIELD — It’s the new COVID-19 policy trend in Berkshire County: masking directives.
Directives are a step above an advisory, but a notch below a mandate. That means they do not include any fines or punishments, but firmly ask that you mask up indoors — and that businesses enforce that masking.
The directives also suggest that there could be stricter rules waiting if businesses and individuals do not comply.
Think of it this way: An advisory is a passing suggestion from a friend that you should take more COVID-19 precautions. A directive is a sit-down, heart-to-heart plea from that same friend to put on a mask — for your own safety and everyone else’s.
But, don’t worry yet about fines or repercussions, says Andy Cambi, interim health director in Pittsfield, the latest municipality to adopt a directive.
“With a mandate, we’d have a fine structure and process for issuing fines,” Cambi said. “Our goal with [the directive] is not to issue fines. It’s for the community to become more aware.”
Several South County municipalities have implemented directives, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Berkshire County; Pittsfield joined them Wednesday.
The directives are written like mandates but contain no enforcement mechanisms.
Here is the language Pittsfield uses for the ask: “Appropriate CDC approved masks or face coverings shall be worn in all publicly accessible indoor spaces in the City of Pittsfield.”
And the language for the enforcement: “We respectfully request that the person(s) or entity in control of a public indoor or outdoor space will assume the obligation to comply with this public health directive as set forth in the above policies and procedures.”
That’s a request, not a rule. But, like other such directives, the Pittsfield language comes with a warning, which says that, more or less, if you don’t follow this request, we might make it a rule.
This is the language: “Non-compliance with this directive, the City of Pittsfield Board of Health under their authority may implement more strict rules and regulations of this directive that may include fines for non-compliance and further action that may include suspension and revocation.”
Cambi stressed that the language is not a threat.
“That’s just an outcome that could happen if we don’t take action right now,” he said.
The city does not want a mandate, he says, and will work as closely as possible with noncompliant businesses before going down any enforcement route.
Instead, he wants everyone to recognize that the virus is spreading through the community, as cold weather sets in.
“We’re looking to urge a call of action from our community,” he said.