HANSON — Gov. Charlie Baker’s latest coronavirus policy, limiting stores to 40-percent capacity — including employees — at one time, was among the legislative updates provided by state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Pembroke, in a Tuesday, April 7 Board of Selectmen’s session held remotely over the Go To Meeting conference call platform.
The store capacity guidelines went into effect April 7.
A first responder testing facility has been opened at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and drive-through testing for the public is being conducted by CVS in Lowell. The appointment-only testing (online at cvs.com) aims to provide up to 1,000 tests per day.
“I would expect, and hope, to see more of those types of those sites coming online,” Cutler said.
Cutler also outlined the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to help small businesses, and self-employed people — or gig workers — will become eligible for state unemployment benefits this week through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“I am seeing these requests being filled,” Cutler said.
He also noted that the state’s budget, which is expected to be affected by revenues reduced by the economic impact of COVID-19, is expected to be delayed. The legislature also passed a bill permitting both towns and school districts to operate on 1/12 budgets.
“Since this is a disaster declared by FEMA, carefully document all your expenses because we may be able to get reimbursement from the federal government,” Cutler said.
Town officials do not report out to the public the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus as the Board of Health continues to follow Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines, according to Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
“That is a decision that is made by each local board of health and we honor their sovereignty and the ability to make that decision,” she said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said Hanson health officials had begun making reports, but were met by “push-back” from the DPH to local boards due to the concern over the potential for bullying.
“We’re following the DPH guidelines,” said Health Board Chairman Arlene Dias. The DPH is currently issuing reports per county. “The concern is, if we say we have a very low number people are not as diligent as they should be, and having a low number of positives doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of people in town with COVID.”
Dias advised residents to act as if everyone they come into contact with has the virus and to stay away and protect yourself.
“We’re going to stay the course,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Town Administrator John Stanbrook said the town’s Emergency Preparedness Committee has been meeting regularly throughout the pandemic crisis.
Police Chief Michael Miksch told Selectmen the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) is allowing health boards to update public safety personnel about positive cases in their communities, to properly prepare them for emergency calls. He coordinates that, since the 911 center is in the Police Department.
While the town has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand right now, the advance information allows police and fire to be conservative with its use.
Both Miksch and Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr., expressed some concern about uncertainty on the “burn rate” of how quickly PPE supplies will be used.
“We’re tracking it very closely,” Thompson said. “In anticipation of shortfalls, we’re putting in orders very early to get some.”
The Fire Department has already closed its building to public access. They have brought the third, back-up ambulance back online to be used exclusively for COVID-related calls.
“We’ve moved more to a security role in policing, where we’re constantly checking the public buildings … trying to keep people from gathering,” Miksch said. The public is also discouraged from walk-in business at the station with phone and email communication preferred.
Health Agent Gil Amado said his role is to ensure compliance with state health guidelines, with which all stores and restaurants in town are complying.
“The big thing about this is social distancing,” Amado said. “Prevention is the best method here. … The citizens of Hanson are doing a good job — we’ve had nobody in non-compliance.”
Stanbrook reiterated that essential town employees are still reporting to work, with non-essential staff working from home to the extent that they can. All public meetings are being held via conference call. Public hearings that can be postponed are being rescheduled and a new act passed by the state on April 3 permits the dates and deadlines of mandatory ZBA hearings and they will be postponed without adverse effects to the town.