WESTFIELD -Westfield Polic Chief Lawrence P. Valliere this week addressed the role of local police in enforcing new COVID-19 guidelines.
Gov. Charlie D. Baker last week annpounced the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions, which went into effect Nov. 6, due to a significant rise in the number of daily new confirmed cases in the state.
The three updated guidelines, orders 53, 54, and 55, add restrictions to the existing guidelines Massachusetts residents have been living with since the spring. Order 53 mandates that certain businesses must be closed by 9:30 p.m., including all liquor sales and tableside dining. That restriction aligns with a stay-at-home advisory in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
Order 54 reduced the gathering size limit at private residences. Indoor gatherings at private residences are now limited to 10 people, while private outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people. There was no change to the existing limit on the number of people that can gather in a public space.
Order 55 mandates that one must wear a mask in a public space regardless of one’s ability to socially distance. The order continues to allow an individual to claim a medical exemption for wearing a mask, but it now allows employers and schools to ask employees and students to provide proof of a legitimate exemption. Masks are also now required in public for children over age 5.
Valliere sent a letter to all Westfield Police officers outlining how the department should enforce these new restrictions.
In the letter he said that the stay-at-home advisory was just that, an advisory. Because of this, he does not believe the police can enforce it, as it is not mandatory.
“So where does that leave us from an enforcement standpoint? We have had numerous orders and advisories to date. I believe the department has used great discretion in deciding when to act. We couldn’t chase down every complaint before and we won’t be able to do it now,” said Valliere in his letter to the department.
He said that individual businesses would have to take the initiative to address people who are non-compliant with the guidelines on their property. Should such a situation escalate, the police would address it.
He also said that if there is a call for a private residence violation it will be investigated at the discretion of the police. If a business is obviously remaining open beyond the 9:30 p.m. curfew, the police will get involved either by their own initiative or if a person makes a complaint.
“We have to realize our limits and the monumental task we have been thrown into the middle of. We really need to use diplomacy when we are involved with these complaints. People’s tolerance for these regulations grows shorter every day. Understand that and be safe,” said Valliere at the end of his letter.