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City Council Passes Policy Orders on the Future of the City's Mask Mandate, BGLTQ Housing

At Monday's meeting, councilors passed a policy order to determine when it would be appropriate to lift the City's indoor mask mandate.
At Monday's meeting, councilors passed a policy order to determine when it would be appropriate to lift the City's indoor mask mandate. By Pei Chao Zhuo
By Sarah Girma and Jennifer L. Powley, Crimson Staff Writers

The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed three policy orders at a Monday meeting to reevaluate the City’s indoor mask mandate, expand BGLTQ-friendly housing in Cambridge, and recognize the unionization efforts of workers at small business coffee chain Darwin’s.

Co-sponsored by Councilor Patricia M. “Patty” Nolan ’80, Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon, and Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, the mask mandate policy order will be negotiated with the Cambridge Public Health Department to establish metrics that allow Cambridge residents to better understand the requisites needed to lift the mandate.

In response to an increase in Covid-19 cases in Cambridge, the City issued an emergency order effective Sept. 3 requiring the use of face masks in indoor public spaces.

Mallon said that city officials are divided over how best to approach the decision to lift the mask mandate.

“There didn’t seem to be a lot of consensus, and some of our residents have expressed concerns around not having any metrics or stated goals, and a desire to have those metrics defined to have a goal to work towards and have transparency around decisions.” Mallon said.

The council and CPHD have not yet declared when they will lift the indoor mask mandate, as they are awaiting public health data to inform their decision.

The council also considered an order, sponsored by Councilor E. Denise Simmons, that requested City Manager Louis A. DePasquale compile the City’s previous efforts to create BGLTQ-friendly housing and provide recommendations to expand such housing.

Simmons explained that she has made “numerous concerted efforts” to explore opportunities for establishing BGLTQ-friendly housing in Cambridge and discussed Boston’s progress in this area.

“The civil rights and liberties that so many have worked so hard to achieve over the past several decades are in an ever changing state,” Simmons said. “There is very much a need and desire to curate the kind of housing that can indeed cultivate the community aspect for the LGBTQ community.”

Councilor Quinton Y. Zondervan said he was “excited” for Simmons’s proposal and acknowledged challenges faced by BGLTQ residents, specifically senior citizens.

“LGBT seniors are impacted by decades of oppression and face a unique set of challenges including disrupted connection to families of origin, discrimination, isolation, and less opportunity to age in a social and economically secure location,” he said. “These challenges, and more, put this population at greater risk for health problems, mental illness, addiction, homelessness, and more.”

Toward the end of the meeting, the councilors also voted unanimously to go on record in support of Darwin’s UNITED, a recently established union for workers at the Cambridge coffee chain.

“I am happy to be supportive of this,” Nolan said. “Darwin’s is an exemplary small business, and I hope that with this order, we can walk the talk of supporting, celebrating, affirming, and uplifting all our small local businesses.”

Workers at Darwin’s sent a letter to management on Sept. 15 detailing their intentions to unionize. The workers requested Darwin’s voluntarily recognize them through a card-check process and agree to friendly negotiation.

“I hope we can celebrate this victory and focus on those companies that don’t treat workers well, that don’t voluntarily agree to recognize unions through a card-check,” Nolan said.

—Staff writer Sarah Girma can be reached at sarah.girma@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGirma_.

—Staff writer Jennifer L. Powley can be reached at jennifer.powley@thecrimson.com.

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