The Halifax Board of Selectmen meeting on February 4 was nearly Zoom bombed before Town Administrator Charlie Seelig was able to recognize an absurd name and ended the Zoom portion of the meeting. A Zoom bombing occurs when an uninvited participant joins a Zoom call with the intention to disrupt it in some way. The practice, which is a federal offense, has become more common during the pandemic with so many people conducting business virtually.
Once resolved, the Board turned their attention to Halifax Board of Health agent Bob Valery for a COVID update. Valery noted that Seelig has been posting the town’s daily numbers and said that for him the focus has been on the two-week numbers of positive cases versus those that were tested. Valery said the week prior there were 763 people tested with 65 of those being positive. This is a positive test rate of 8.52 percent. “We’re not gaining but we’re not dropping as well as we could be,” Valery explained.
Holiday gatherings blamed for uptick
Valery noted that the State has seen a reduction in cases and said that the previous capacity limits of 25 percent for some close-contact businesses was to be increased to 40 percent capacity on February 8. “The reason we did have a high run rate after the holidays was because of gatherings,” Valery said. He acknowledged that traditionally the Super Bowl is also a big day for gatherings.
Fire Chief Jason Viveiros said that the town has continued with testing for town employees every Wednesday at the school and the Town Hall. “We still get a decent turnout for that,” he said. Viveiros said that all first responders that wanted to be vaccinated in town have been and said that as of that day, roughly 125 seniors over the age of 75 had been vaccinated in town.
During the February 4 meeting Viveiros had provided the selectmen with a lengthy update on the town’s vaccination efforts including plans to open up a mass vaccination site for the towns of Halifax, Kingston, and Plympton at Silver Lake Regional High School. The plan was to secure doses of the Pfizer vaccine through their association with Dr. Muse of Signature Healthcare Brockton. The hospital was planning to store the doses as the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -94 Fahrenheit necessitating the use of special ultracold freezers. The Moderna vaccine can be shipped and stored using regular refrigerator freezers.
Since the February 4 meeting, however, the State shut down vaccination distribution through local entities such as Fire Departments. The Department of Public Health will no longer be supplying the previously expected doses. Instead, the vaccines will be distributed either through private companies such as CVS or Walgreens or through State run sites such as Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park.
Viveiros recognized the work that had been done up to that point on the vaccine rollout by administrative assistant Kendra Kelly, Fire Captain Matthew Cunningham, and the Council on Aging staff. “They’ve done such a great job,” Viveiros said. A robocall was placed to all seniors in town over the age of 75 and the Council on Aging worked with them to schedule appointments.
Viveiros and the Selectmen also discussed differences between the two approved vaccines as well as possible side effects. Both vaccines require two shots and the interval between doses is 28 days for Moderna and 21 days for Pfizer. Viveiros cited the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine at 95 percent and 94.5 percent for Moderna. He said that the one-shot vaccines that are yet to be approved, including both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, have effectiveness percentages somewhere in the high sixties.
Of the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, Viveiros said, “They say the body will react to it a little more aggressively,” he explained. It is common for people to experience a fever, chills, body aches, and other flu-like symptoms. “Overall, from people I’ve talked to, a lot of people in the healthcare profession have already got their second injection and I haven’t heard any horror stories about it,” Viveiros said. The Selectmen thanked the emergency team for their work on vaccine distribution. “Just the teamwork you guys have shown has put us and our residents in a really good position so I just want to say thank you,” Selectman Gordon Andrews said.
Wage and Personnel
Following the COVID update, the Board turned their attention to regular town business. Seelig said the Wage and Personnel Public Hearing was held with the Finance Committee. Amendments to be considered include a step increase for the Board of Health agent from a Step 2 to a Step 4, evaluation of pay scales and steps for Grades 6 and 7, discontinuities in Grades 11 through Grade 14, and changes to benefits for call firefighters. The need to address the minimum wage problem was also discussed. As the minimum wage rises, it puts pressure on the jobs on the lower end of the town’s pay scale to be increased as they are not intended as minimum wage positions due to required responsibilities. The selectmen plan to do research on comparative towns before making any final decisions.
Bud’s Goods Host Community pact
Seelig told the Selectmen that Bud’s Goods and Provisions had filed their special permit with the Planning Board. Bud’s has a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with the town for an outdoor marijuana growing facility. The hearing is on March 4 at 7:05 pm.
Viveiros said the Fireworks Committee had reached out to him looking for some guidance on how and if they should proceed. The Committee currently doesn’t have the funds to put on the fireworks and is uncomfortable reaching out to local businesses given the economic climate due to COVID. Instead, if there is interest in still having fireworks this year, they would try to do some sort of online fundraising. Seelig said they currently have just over $8,000 but would need roughly $13,000. Millias pointed out that the event is only five months away and said that even if the gathering limits were raised from what they are now, a typical fireworks display in town would bring in thousands. “Doesn’t sound safe to me,” Valery said noting that he does, however, love fireworks. The selectmen agreed to advise them not to plan for 2021.