Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts on Tuesday, March 10, to aid in the state’s response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 as it is identified. Baker said, “We will continue planning and preparing to mitigate the spread of this disease…I urge employers and other large organizations to follow our example and limit or eliminate non-essential travel, limit or eliminate large events where possible, and explore telework where appropriate for your organization.”
Older adults and those with health issues are also being implored by the administration to avoid large crowds and gatherings as are those that live with someone in the vulnerable population. As of press time, the number of confirmed or presumptive positives in Massachusetts had reached 91 with the majority of those being linked to a Biogen conference held in Boston in late February. As of Wednesday, March 11 the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. What does all of this mean for our local communities?
On March 11 Kingston Town Administrator Thomas Calter posted a letter to residents alerting them of a possible COVID-19 case in a Kingston resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Plymouth. Later that same day, Kingston town officials leaarned that the patient was negative for the virus during a lengthy call with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. As of press time, there are currently no presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kingston or Plymouth County.
The Kingston Board of Health said that thus far they have been following the guidelines provided by the CDC and Mass.gov. They did say that they planned to run a simulated drill with emergency services personnel in town in conjunction with the Board of Health on March 21. The drill is meant to assess the level of preparedness of the town should the worst-case scenario take place.
They also said that they are in talks with a contractor should they elect to do a commercial grade clean of the schools and other town buildings. The cleaning would involve a mist spray made by the same company that produces Lysol.
Other local communities have taken similar measures to help ensure that their schools are being properly disinfected. Whitman-Hanson performed a deep cleaning of all school facilities over the February break and plan to do another this coming weekend. All public schools in Plymouth were closed on Friday, March 6 in order to thoroughly clean and disinfect them. The closing was due to an abundance of caution after a student became ill upon returning from a recent trip to Italy. That student ended up testing negative for COVID-19.
The Plympton Board of Health is referring residents to a letter jointly posted to the town website on March 10 by Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy, Fire Chief Stephan Silva, and Chair of the Board of Health Art Morin. The letter reminds residents of common-sense actions they can take including washing hands, avoiding touching their face, and cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
According to the letter, the town is following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Public Health (DPH). Specific questions, it says, can be directed to Fire Captain Cheryl Davis (email@example.com).
The Halifax town website also provides information on COVID-19 including links to resources such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health webpage and the CDC’s frequently asked questions regarding coronavirus and another page dedicated to interim guidance for employers. Halifax Town Administrator Charlie Seelig, who advised listening to medical professionals, said, “People should practice hygiene, if they feel sick whether it’s COVID-19 or the flu or a cold or something else, stay home. Obviously, people over a certain age or with frequent health problems are more endangered with this so they should probably take additional precautions.”
Regarding town business, Seelig said that unless specific directives were given by the Governor’s office, business would go on as usual with some obvious precautions taken. “We’re going to continue, until otherwise I would say, operating as normal,” Seelig said.
Seelig did say that maintenance staff both within the schools and other municipal buildings have been taking extra care to disinfect common surfaces such as doorknobs.
Given Governor Baker’s suggestion to avoid large gatherings, Seelig said he will reach out to the administration to find out how best to handle potentially large gatherings such as the Chapter 40B public hearings scheduled for next week.
Seelig’s advice to those in the community is to “Try and maintain, as well as you can, a sense of normalcy given the circumstances.”