As many Massachusetts residents know by now a majority of cities and towns throughout the commonwealth have done away with mask mandates as COVID-19 cases are at a reduction. At this point, in most Western Massachusetts areas, wearing a mask is optional and depends on each individual's comfort level and health situation. In Berkshire County, when I recently did my grocery shopping, I saw masks on a number of shoppers and others opted to be unmasked. In addition, I recently stopped in at a Pittsfield eatery for take-out and almost everybody sitting inside chose to be maskless. Also in Pittsfield, I did some shopping for household items and most of the customers were wearing masks but the employees were not.

Where many Western Massachusetts towns and cities have lifted the mask mandate, you still should keep your mask handy because you never know what an individual business or organization's mask-wearing policy may be. I'm all for people choosing what works best for them, I just hope we can respect each other's decisions without any ridicule or harassment. I haven't seen much of that lately but obviously, it's present in some areas of the country to the point where Saturday Night Live did a sketch on the very subject during the Feb. 26, 2022 episode (see video below).

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Two exceptions to the option of wearing masks are two bigger municipalities that still have active mandates which include the Town of Amherst and the City of Northampton. Northampton's official website contains the following statement:

Masks and face coverings continue to be required in all Northampton businesses, workplaces, event spaces, and schools until further notice. Masks must be worn in all indoor settings, and must securely and snugly cover the mouth and nose.

On Amherst's official site their mask mandate announcement from Aug. 18, 2021, is still clearly visible at the top of the homepage. In addition, their active mandate status along with Northampton's was confirmed in a recent article by WWLP.

So, if you are going to be visiting Amherst or Northampton make sure you take your mask with you, otherwise, you may have limited options when touring the areas. While we are free to make our own mask-wearing choices throughout many Western, Massachusetts cities and towns, let's continue to treat each other with respect and kindness as we're all in this together.

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