With The Big E set to begin on Friday, the town of West Springfield will hold a public hearing Wednesday afternoon to weigh a potential mask mandate.

WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- With The Big E set to begin on Friday, the town of West Springfield will hold a public hearing Wednesday afternoon to weigh a potential mask mandate.

Preparations are almost complete at The Big E, but one question still remains. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, will masks be required at the fair?

People will have an opportunity to weigh in on that starting at 5:20 p.m. today.

“With it being outside, I don’t see a need for it, but if you’re inside in a confined space, then maybe a mask should be required,” said William Womeldorf of Easthampton.

Womeldorf was in favor of an indoor mask mandate in West Springfield ahead of a board of health public hearing this afternoon.

As for outdoors, Womeldorf noted, “I think if you’re concerned, you should bring a mask with you. I always keep one in my pocket.”

Under consideration today are COVID-19 mitigation measures which, according to documents we found on the health department’s website, read as follows:

“Face coverings are required in all indoor public places as well as private places open to the public, regardless of vaccination status for those over the age of two (2) years old.”

Jeanne Galloway, the director of public health in West Springfield, said residents can join the virtual public hearing to share their thoughts.

“Unless they want to drastically change what’s written, there will likely be a decision,” Galloway explained.

West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt told Western Mass News that it’s no coincidence that the mandate would go into effect on Friday, September 17 - the first day of The Big E.

“With The Big E happening and hundreds of thousands of people being here supporting The Big E over the next 17 days, that is part of the reason they’re thinking about taking action,” Reichelt said.

Galloway said the town has experienced an uptick in the positivity rate over the last week.

“Last week’s was 5.8. Before that, it was in the low fours for a couple of weeks, so that’s kind of a big jump,” Galloway noted.

That has the health department on high alert.

“Yes, there’s a lot of concern with COVID coming in for this,” Galloway added.

As for enforcing these potential indoor mask mandates? An abundance of signage and staff will be on hand, including help from board of health, Big E, police, and fire officials. However, Eastern States Exposition President Gene Cassidy told Western Mass News he’s optimistic fairgoers will comply.

“Those people who are averse, they’re not gonna be here, so I expect things are gonna go pretty smoothly,” Cassidy said.

There will be a two-minute limit for each person who wants to weigh in at this afternoon's public hearing, which is scheduled to start at 5:20 p.m. For more on how you can join that meeting, CLICK HERE.

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