Josh Bloom and daughters before Pittsfield BOH seeking mask mandate

Josh Bloom, of Lee, with his daughters, Lola, 7, and Goldie, 5, urge the Pittsfield Board of Health at its Wednesday meeting to institute a mask mandate that covers children's indoor activities. The girls want to return to a city dance studio, but the business won't require masks, since they are not mandated.

PITTSFIELD — The city’s Board of Health soon could decide whether the county’s largest municipality should have a mandatory indoor mask policy.

The board said last week that it will discuss at its November meeting if Pittsfield should require masks indoors, given that the COVID-19 outbreak is much worse in Pittsfield than in communities such as Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, which have had mask mandates since early September.

Pittsfield’s 14-day daily case average is 21 cases per 100,000 people, more than four times the rate in Lee, which has a 14-day daily case average of 4.9 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

City health officials agreed to consider the mandate after hearing from a Lee resident and his two young daughters who spoke before the board Wednesday.

Josh Bloom said his daughters, Lola, 7, and Goldie, 5, can’t attend the dance studio they frequent in the city, because the studio owners don’t require masks.

“Up until COVID, I took break dancing lessons here, and I loved it and I want to go back,” Lola said.

“Me too,” Goldie added.

Pittsfield currently only advises people who are unvaccinated to wear masks inside businesses, but Bloom said a mandate is at least necessary to protect the children who can’t get vaccinated.

“You would be hard-pressed to find any indoor children’s activity in the rest of the Southern Berkshires that doesn’t require masks,” said Bloom, who added that he has a master’s degree in public health.

“You already have a mask mandate for schools; it’s time to have one for all children’s activities.”

Bloom had hoped the board immediately would enact a mask mandate, but the public health panel felt that the matter required more research.

“I think it requires a little more thought, but you bring up some very valid points and we will take a look at this,” said board member Brad Gordon.

Bloom felt that waiting another month wasn’t necessary.

“I don’t think this should be punted down to the next meeting, if you meet once a month, as that takes us toward winter,” he said.

Pittsfield, which has a population of slightly less than 44,000, has had 129 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. Three-fourths of eligible city residents have been vaccinated fully.

This story has been modified to correct the 14-day daily case average and the vaccination rate in Pittsfield.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.