The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Thursday, Jan. 7, for one of their emergency meetings being held regularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. While participants were in-person, the public was able to attend the meeting virtually via Zoom.
Board of Health Agent Bob Valery led things off with an update on COVID-19 infections in Halifax. Valery told the selectmen that during the two-week period from Christmas Eve to January 6 there were 41 new cases reported in town. He pointed out that multiple cases were occurring in single family homes. He said that as of January 7 there were no hospitalizations and no deaths from the active cases. Reporting as of January 10 show that there have been a total of 270 coronavirus cases in Halifax, 220 of which have recovered, 44 of which are in isolation, and a total of 6 deaths.
Selectmen Chair Tom Millias pointed out that while the numbers have increased significantly, so has the testing. “This was the highest two-week total since the start of reporting,” Valery told the Express. “Yes, variables like increased testing come into play, but I believe the number shows that the Governor’s decision to keep the gathering limitations in place for an additional two weeks is statistically supported,” he continued.
Valery was referencing Governor Baker’s announcement of a two-week extension of his previous COVID restrictions. The restrictions, which were first announced December 22, were set to expire on January 10 but were extended to January 24. The restrictions include a maximum of 10 people indoors and
25 outdoors. Many businesses are limited to just 25 percent of their capacity.
Valery touched upon the various phases for vaccine distribution and who qualified for each. Phase One includes, in order of priority, healthcare workers doing direct COVID-facing care, those in various care facilities, first responders, those in congregate care settings, home-based healthcare workers, and healthcare workers doing non COVID-facing care. Top priority in Phase Two will be those with two or more comorbidities and those that are age 75 or older. Next to receive the vaccine in Phase Two will be a variety of workers including those working in early education, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health workers. Finally, adults that are age 65 plus and those with one comorbidity will also be eligible at the end of Phase Two. In Phase Three the vaccine will be available to the general public.
Millias asked Valery what kind of timeline is expected for the various stages. Phase One is already underway and according to Valery, Phase Two is likely to happen from February to April and Phase Three from April to June.
Fire Chief Jason Viveiros said that the rollout of the vaccine to first responders would be starting the following week. Vaccinations were scheduled to begin on Tuesday, January 12 and Friday, January 15 and continue the following Tuesday. Viveiros said the first week would be a good indication of how smoothly the process will go.
Viveiros said that Halifax first responders are part of the Brockton Hospital group and will receive the Moderna vaccine. He said the plan was to pickup the vaccines on Tuesday morning for use later that day. The vaccines will need to defrost for two hours before being refrigerated. It can be refrigerated for up to 30 days though Viveiros said they plan to distribute the vaccines the same day they receive them. According to Viveiros, once punctured, a vial is only good for 6 hours. Individuals receiving the vaccine will be monitored for 15 minutes afterward for any adverse reaction. There will be 28 days between the first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine requires 21 days between doses.
Valery said that a shortage of doses isn’t expected as the various phases rollout. Viveiros said that while his department is well setup for administration of the vaccine, he wasn’t sure if there would be a plan to utilize the Fire Department in wider distribution. Valery said that the school could potentially be used. He also said that large venues such as UMass Amherst and Gillette Stadium could be used for later phases. Stores/Pharmacies such as Shaws and Stop and Shop have already signed on to receive doses.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said that there have recently been issues arising regarding town employees and COVID protocols. Now that there have been a few recovered cases of COVID in town employees, the question is being asked as to whether they still need to quarantine following out of state travel. Seelig said he was assuming that the restrictions would still apply as there is still uncertainty about the extent of immunity in recovered individuals.
He also pointed out that even if an individual didn’t get sick themselves following an exposure, they could potentially spread the virus while asymptomatic. Valery verified Seelig’s assumptions saying, “absolutely.”