HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Jan. 4 voted to impose a mask mandate in all town-owned buildings, effective Wednesday, Jan. 5. All employees must wear masks when interacting with the public.
The board plans to revisit the issue at its Tuesday, Jan. 25 meeting.
“I don’t think it would hurt anything to say [access to Town Hall] is appointment only for the next two weeks,” Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “And then we can revisit it.”
Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer, noting that everyone, “healthy or sick” goes food shopping, asked if Selectmen could impose a mask mandate in all public spaces. He asked that the board put such a mandate in place in all town-owned buildings, Jan. 5. He also endorsed a hybrid meeting atmosphere, so people who wish to attend in person may do so at their own risk, but virtual attendance is encouraged.
Dyer also asked if it was possible to obtain test kits to have on hand for town employees, which Amado said he was looking into. A COVID booster clinic will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 13 at Hanson Middle School. Registration with the Board of Health is required for the Moderna booster shots.
FitzGerald-Kemmett noted that is a Board of Health decision, where the Selectmen are in charge of town employees and town buildings. She also sought to mandate mask wearing when town employees interact with the public.
“Ideally we would like to agree on these things and work together,” she said.
The board discussed the issue with Health Agent Gilbert Amado, who reported that there were about 300 cases in town as of that time, but did not advocate additional measures be taken. Selectman Joe Weeks called attention to the report two meetings ago when there were 20 cases in town.
“It’s ramping up unbelievable,” Amado said adding that the Omicron outbreak has led to more people getting tested. He said Hanson has a 12.32 percent positivity rate and Whitman has a 12.18 percent rate.
“It’s up to common sense right now,” he said, adding the town has been “kicked in the butt” by the CDC and governor. He did say the board might consider mandating masks in Town Hall and other town buildings.
“But people are rebellious,” he said.
He said the town has done a “fabulous” job protecting town employees with plexiglass shields, and sanitizing wipes and lotion for cleaning surfaces and hands. Masks and gloves are worn and buildings are fogged against the virus.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked Amado about surrounding towns like Whitman closing town halls for a short period in order to get control of the transmission rate and protect staff in the interests of the town. She asked if masks are still required in Town Hall.
“For a week or two, while this thing is getting crazy and the transmission numbers are so high … 300 is alarming,” she said. “We’re in it. We’re in the crosshairs right now.”
Amado confirmed that’s the highest number of cases the town has had at one time.
Weeks also asked about virtual or hybrid meetings. Town Administrator Lisa Green confirmed that town boards are allowed to meet virtually through April 2022.
“Employees within Town Hall have taken it upon themselves to wear masks,” Green said.