The Board of Health meeting on May 4 painted a clear picture of the extensive work being done to combat Covid-19 not just head-on, but in addressing the numerous consequences stemming from it. Director of Health and Human Services Heidi Porter, Assistant Health Director Katharine Dagle, and Community Nurse Mark Waksmonski provided detailed reports on the town’s current situation.
Waksmonski’s report clarified the town’s protocol for handling confirmed cases using guidelines from the CDC. In response to board member Susan Schwartz’s question, he elaborated upon how the town conducts outreach to residents who have tested positive. Those who test positive are asked to quarantine until seven days from their first symptoms have passed, as well as another three days after any respiratory symptoms have disappeared. While the town has not yet had to address any positive, asymptomatic cases, those residents are asked to follow the same guidance, quarantining for 10 days. Waksmonski also discussed trends in positive cases around town. The vast majority of confirmed cases are in people above the age of 40, but a handful of teenagers have tested positive as well. Waksmonski is concerned that negative tests provide a false sense of security, emphasizing that after a negative test a person may still be vulnerable in the future and should continue to follow all social distancing guidelines.
Dagle provided updates on the town’s status, both related and unrelated to Covid-19. Even amidst the pandemic, establishments that remain open are undergoing the same inspections as usual, with extra care being paid due to the current situation. While individual establishments often create internal guidelines to meet social distancing orders, Dagle emphasized how essential it is for managers and employees to be trained in order to make informed decisions. Providing this information has been a focus for the BOH staff. The town currently has 19 establishments offering takeout food, with another seven that offer some sort of food service (such as gas stations and centers like Carleton Willard). Addressing summer recreation, Dagle stated that the Board has been in touch with pools and camps, which are awaiting CDC guidelines and state regulations before they are able to make a decision on opening.
Porter closed out the meeting with her report. She was happy to report that the department had received grants from the Massachusetts DPH for a total of $13,000. They hope to put much of this fund towards providing PPE thermometers for residents and essential workers. Porter also addressed domestic violence reports, a common concern because so many are stuck at home at this time. While Porter is optimistic because the number of calls is down, there is concern that the lower numbers may mean that victims are in potentially dangerous situations and unable to call. The town has social workers available to provide online counseling and mental health support.
The Board intended to act on an ordinance requiring face coverings for residents, but Governor Baker’s statewide order of the same requirement negated the need for a local order.