WAKEFIELD — Citing the rising number of COVID cases, the Town Council and the Board of Health each voted separately last night for nearly identical measures requiring masks in all municipal buildings in Wakefield, effective Sept. 2, regardless of vaccination status. Previously, only unvaccinated individuals were required to wear masks in local municipal buildings.

Interim Health Director Elaine Silva told last night’s joint meeting that, although there have been 51 new cases of COVID reported in Wakefield in the last week, none of the recent cases has resulted in death or hospitalization. Most were “breakthrough” cases involving vaccinated people. Silva said that symptoms reported were similar to a cold.

She noted that the infected individuals were being responsible and observing quarantine requirements.

Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio said that with the climbing case numbers he believed that it was time to require masks in all municipal buildings when social distancing is not possible.

Anyone refusing to wear a mask in a public building will be “required to leave the building immediately on penalty of trespass,” according to the new order.

The original Board of Health motion also called for a $300 fine for violators who refuse to mask up or leave a building. But the language related to fines was ultimately removed after Board of Health member Laurel Gourville and others argued that fines would be unwieldy to enforce and were probably unnecessary.

Members of both boards felt that most people would be cooperative, recalling that there were few issues during the last mask mandate, when there were no fines.

In response to a question, Town Counsel Thomas Mullen noted that trespassing is a crime, and police could arrest or summons any unmasked person refusing to leave a municipal building

Town Councilor Anne Danehy stressed that clear signage should be posted at the entrances of all town-owned buildings including the possibility of police action against violators.

Board of Health Chair Candace Linehan added that masks should also be available at all public buildings.

There was some discussion of whether town employees working alone in their offices should be required to wear a mask. Mullen suggested adding language to exempt employees when working alone in an office. That language was included in the final order as adopted by both boards.

Town Councilor Edward Dombroski acknowledged that there were widely divergent points of view among the public regarding mask mandates. All points of view should be respected, he said, adding, “These are not normal times.”

He insisted, however, that the mask mandate should be lifted on the very first day that it is appropriate to do so.

The Town Council and the Board of Health then voted separately on virtually the same measure:

“Effective Sept. 2, 2021, all persons over the age of three years (will) be required to wear a mask or other face covering that covers their mouth and nose at all times while indoors in any building owned or controlled by the Town of Wakefield. This order applies to all persons, including Town employees and members of the public, without regard to an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status, but shall not apply to persons who have a disability that prevents them from wearing a face mask or covering or who depend on supplemental oxygen to breathe, nor to any employee occupying a private office by himself.

“Violators shall be required to leave the building immediately on penalty of trespass.”

The vote of the two-member Board of Health was unanimous in favor of the mask mandate in municipal buildings.

The Town Council vote was 6-1 in favor, with Councilor Peter May the opposing vote.