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SJC nixes mask mandate for most in Massachusetts courts

 The Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Karen Brown
The renovated Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield.

Starting Wednesday, masks will no longer be required for most people entering Massachusetts courthouses.

According to the order from the Supreme Judicial Court, masks are encouraged, especially for those with weakened immune systems, underlying medical conditions and the unvaccinated. Masks are still mandatory for individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 within the previous 10 days and people who have been in close contact with others testing positive.

“It’s about time that the court system can get back to normal and not be treated like a medical facility,” said attorney Joseph Pacella, president of the Hampden County Bar Association.

Pacella said dealing with mask wearing in courtrooms makes his job more difficult “when we can't necessarily rely on being able to see people's faces to judge their credibility, their reactions, their various expressions, so it's been incredibly frustrating, and this is great news."

Pacella said he hopes there won't be a return to masks in courthouses, even if there is a future rise in COVID cases.

The order from the SJC also spelled out who is not supposed to enter courthouses, including people who tested positive within five days, those demonstrating COVID-19 symptoms or individuals awaiting test results. There are also steps for what people with court business are supposed to do if they fall under one of the categories excluding them from appearing in person.

Judiciary officials previously lifted capacity and physical distancing restrictions in July 2021, but continued to mandate masking inside courthouses regardless of vaccination status.

Since March 7, masks have not been required in any of the federal courthouses in Massachusetts.

This report includes information from State House News Service.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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