The Plympton Board of Selectmen, town administrator Elizabeth Dennehy, and chair of the Board of Health Arthur Morin have been holding weekly meetings via phone conference during the coronavirus pandemic. Their Thursday, April 2 meeting was the first since Governor Baker extended the state-wide stay-at-home advisory to at least May 4.
One of the first orders of business was to appoint Cathy Ferguson and Arthur Morin to the Emergency Management Team. The Board also voted to appoint Nathan Cristofori as a special police officer through June 30.
Dennehy gave an update on the number of cases in town and said that coronavirus related information will be kept up to date on the town website. As of press time, there are two confirmed cases in Plympton. Morin said that the Department of Public Health notifies the Board of Health directly when there is a confirmed case. According to Morin the Cape Cod Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) assigns a nurse to each patient and it is the responsibility of the nurse to conduct the patient interview and trace contacts. Selectmen vice chair Mark Russo asked Morin who was responsible for reaching out to those that had contact with the infected person. Morin said that task fell under the jurisdiction of the VNA per an order from the Department of Public Health. “They are nurses; they are medical professionals and they know how to do this,” Morin explained. Chair Christine Joy asked Morin if an update on patients’ conditions is given to the Board of Health but was told that would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The Board of Health notifies the fire and police departments of the address of the infected person though no names are given. This action enables the departments to take necessary precautions as needed. Once the pandemic is over, the addresses will be destroyed.
Dennehy said that the A1 ambulance in Plympton has been designated the COVID ambulance and is outfitted in plastic for easy decontamination. Dispatch will determine when to use this ambulance based on a series of questions in the initial call. Dennehy said that the Army National Guard had dropped off some supplies with the town’s fire department. Additionally, Morin said that the town also has a very small supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) including a few different types of gloves, some goggles and N95 masks, and six full PPE suits. Of the suits, Morin added, “There’s only six so when those are gone, they’re gone.”
Dennehy also gave an update on the disinfection of various municipal buildings and vehicles. The fire and police departments as well as the town house have already been done. A determination for when to disinfect the library was being discussed as it has been empty for some time now and holding off a bit could help to eliminate any remaining virus. Russo agreed saying, “At some point, even if there was virus, it’s lost all of its virulence.” According to Dennehy both ambulances have been fogged and there is capacity to do the police cruisers as well. Selectman John Traynor asked about the old town house but Dennehy said that they were hesitant to disinfect the building as they were concerned about damaging old artifacts. The possibility of just disinfecting contact surfaces rather than fogging the air was discussed.
Dennehy also told those on the call that they have been doing their best to minimize the number of employees deemed essential to the functioning of the town and therefore physically in the building. Most town house employees have been working remotely. Dennehy said, “We’ve had a lot of cooperation overall and things seem to be going relatively smoothly at least for now.”
Plympton is receiving a $4,000 grant from the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards (MAHB) to be used toward anything related to the COVID-19 emergency including increased staffing, VNA charges, PPE, etc.
Dennehy said that she had been waiting for the state legislation enabling towns to postpone their town elections and town meetings to pass prior to rescheduling those events. Town moderator Barry DeCristofano and town clerk Patricia Detterman will attend the next Board of Selectmen meeting to further the discussion.
Joy ended the meeting with a “rave” as is tradition during regular Board of Selectmen meetings. She said, “My rave is the emergency management team – what a wonderful job you guys are doing. I feel like we’re in such good hands and it’s very reassuring in a very uncertain and troubling time.” Both Russo and Traynor concurred.