Amherst, UMass officials tout education, not punishment, for mask scofflaws

AMHERST — Town and University of Massachusetts officials said Thursday their goal is to educate students about wearing masks and social distancing, instead of punishing them with fines or expulsion from school.

The Amherst Board of Health has made masks mandatory downtown because of dangers posed by COVID-19 pandemic.

During an hour-long online forum Thursday, Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingston said a person refusing to wear a mask would not be fined.

He also said police will maintain a database on all calls related to people not wearing masks, and that they hope to learn from the data.

“Officers are trained to deescalate a situation, rather than let something spiral out of control, the chief said.

“If someone is adamant about not wearing a mask, we are not going to force the issue,” Livingstone said.

Police officers “will not be getting into situations when it becomes confrontational at all,” he

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