The Recorder – Montague Selectboard ponders health safety measures for town meeting

Posted: 2022-05-02 11:26:06

Modified: 5/2/2022 11:24:34 AM

MONTAGUE – The Selectboard is considering implementing COVID-19 precautionary measures for the indoor annual town meeting on May 7 amid a recent increase in positive cases.

The discussion among board members last week followed Chief Health Officer Daniel Wasiuk’s presentation of Montague’s two-week COVID-19 case count, which tied with the previous week’s report as the number highest positive since late February. Thirty-six cases were recorded from April 10 to April 23.

Although Wasiuk expressed lack of concern about the rate of increase, residents and selection committee clerk Matt Lord suggested the city consider ways to better protect the community.

“I think those increases are minimal,” Wasiuk said. “I know the volatility is still there, but I think it’s really nominal.”

Montague City resident and Town Meeting member Lilith Wolinsky said the city should consider stricter regulations, citing the belief that “a large number of Town Meeting members” have underlying conditions that could put them at risk. at a higher health risk.

“I wonder when are we making accommodations because according to the New York Times, Massachusetts numbers are up 45% in the last two weeks, and again, that’s not including home testing, which are probably a huge amount of the COVID positives,” she said.

“I would rather point out that the Board of Health felt that these are personal choices and personal responsibility, which individuals should embrace,” Wasiuk said in contrast.

Specifically regarding the town meeting, Lord suggested the town both require masking and provide N95 masks to those who attend.

“I think it would be good to require masks for the Town Meeting,” he said. “We are asking people to come to an enclosed space where they are going to talk for an extended period of time. I don’t think the masks are going to diminish the quality of our Town Meeting. »

Selection committee chairman Rich Kuklewicz then suggested that the city could socially distance seats and designate a specific space for those who are not comfortable being near others who may not be wearing be no mask.

City Clerk Deb Bourbeau said she conducted a ‘quick investigation’ within the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association which found ‘with the exception of two towns’, the towns are holding their town meetings ‘as usual’ .

“Some, however, get creative and have… half where people who want to wear masks are seated, and the other half who don’t want to wear masks can sit in that section,” she added. . “I was also told that they have check-in tables for people who want to wear masks and check-in tables for people who don’t want to wear masks.”

City Administrator Steve Ellis said the city analyzed ventilation data as Montague plans to hold its town meeting in the auditorium at Turners Falls High School, which seats a maximum capacity of 422 people.

“We are worried about that,” he said. “We are concerned about anyone’s interest in coming to Town Meeting.”

The selection committee voted on February 28 not to extend the public mask mandate, which expired on March 1. The council also voted to lift the mask mandate in city-owned buildings that was set to expire on April 4, taking into account the previous week’s health council. recommendation. The vote came amid a drop in COVID-19 cases at the time.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or

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Susan W. Lloyd