The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Dec. 22, for one of the special meetings they have been holding during the COVID period. Normally, Police Chief Joao Chaves, Fire Chief Jason Viveiros, and Board of Health Agent Bob Valery are all present but only Viveiros was in attendance for much of the meeting.
Viveiros provided a COVID update saying that while he didn’t have the accurate counts, the town was averaging between 2 and 5 new cases per day. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig jumped in to say that the town was “double red.” “If red is 25 cases over a 14-day period, we’re now at 53 or 54 cases,” he explained. Seelig also said that a colleague had reached out to others in surrounding communities who all confirmed that they were seeing similar jumps in the numbers. “It’s not unique to Halifax; there are very, very few cases where you can point to and say this is the cause,” he continued. He recommended that people go back to the basics of washing their hands, wearing masks, and reducing the number of contacts they have.
Viveiros said they have been working on the vaccination rollout for first responders. “We’re working with our medical director Dr. Muse working through the hospital; he’s making a submission on behalf of twelve different departments, we’ll be one of those twelve departments,” he explained. Viveiros said that all vaccines will be shipped to Brockton Hospital so that they can store them at the required temperatures. He also said that once ready to begin vaccinating the Department can go and pick up the vaccines. The vaccine will most likely be the Moderna vaccine. They are hopeful that vaccinations will begin the second week of January. Viveiros said that they have not heard much regarding a widescale distribution plan for the vaccine.
Valery returned for the final minutes of the meeting following a conference call with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Valery told the Board that the flu shot deadline for students that had previously been set at Dec. 31 has now been extended until Feb. 28. “I just urge that people follow the guidelines that are on Mass.gov when it comes to your home gatherings,” Valery said. He told the Board that nearly half of all positive cases come from household spreads.
Seelig touched upon the new state restrictions effective December 26 including reduced capacity for office spaces, etc. to 25 percent of capacity with the exception of those performing essential functions including K-12 schools. Seelig said that the town hall and other municipal buildings have been considered essential. He also suggested that the Board consider asking departments to go to staggered shifts to try to reduce the possibility of transmission, particularly now that the laptops are available for individuals to work from home. “Thinking that everybody is an essential employee and I would leave it up to the individual departments to present a plan as to how they would like to move forward,” Selectman Chair Tom Millias said. Selectman Troy Garron said he was in agreement. “I think if the department head can handle their staff to get the job done, then that’s fine,” Selectman Gordon Andrews said. “I think that we need to keep the town hall open to allow residents to get their business done,” he added.
Seelig also said that indoor event venues are limited to 10 people though he noted he was unclear as to whether or not the Board of Selectman meetings would fall under that umbrella. He asked the Board what decision they would like to make regarding continuing to meet in person. Seelig pointed out that most boards and committees in town have been meeting virtually. They decided to remain in person for the short-term.
Seelig told the Board that during the Thursday, December 17 storm the backflow regulator at the Halifax Elementary School failed. The staff, including Facilities Director Matt Durkee, Bob Clancy, and Halifax Maintenance Director Scott Materna were able to put something together to allow the school to reopen on Friday. “The decision that we made to have Scott be able to work over at the school and direct functions there and also obviously take advantage of his expertise and being able to compensate him properly for his expertise made a big difference in terms of being able to open the school or not open the school,” Seelig said. Andrews, who also serves as Chair of the Halifax School Committee, said that he plans to invite both Durkee and Materna to the School Committee meeting in January to thank them for their extra time and efforts to ensure that the school could open.