Halifax Selectmen Chair Tom Millias began the Nov. 19 meeting saying, “Welcome to another exciting episode of the town of Halifax Board of Selectmen. This is our meeting in-line with our policy during this COVID era to have extraordinary meetings.” He then turned things over to Halifax Board of Health agent Bob Valery.
Valery told the selectmen that there had been 4 cases of COVID in the town since the previous meeting. He also implored residents to consider safety protocols such as social distancing over the Thanksgiving holiday. “Proceed with caution,” he warned.
Millias said he had noticed the stores in town becoming more lax with counting heads as shoppers entered the door. Valery said he spoke with establishments such as Walmart and Stop and Shop and they ensured that they will be monitoring the numbers moving forward. “This is going to be the telling season when people are out doing their shopping though I think a lot of it is going to be online,” Millias said. “Hopefully people are going to be responsible,” he continued.
Halifax Police Chief Joao Chaves said that Walmart had been holding Black Friday sales the last few weekends in an attempt to minimize the number of shoppers on the actual day following Thanksgiving. He also said there will be detail officers assigned to the store that day.
Fire Chief Jason Viveiros gave an update on the portable coronavirus testing site in town which he said should be ready to begin testing in a week or two. Viveiros said they will be utilizing an antigen test which is administered via a nasal swab rather than an antibody test. “If someone has antibodies it doesn’t give us any true information whereas the antigen test gives us useful information; if the person tests positive they’ll be considered contagious for the virus,” he explained. Halifax received 350 PCR tests with Fedex labels. Results will be available within 24-48 hours. “PCR tests are the gold standard,” Viveiros said. The town was able to get the cost of the tests down from $140 per test to just $75 apiece.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig asked the Board to approve buying thermometers for each town department. Seelig said that at $60 apiece, the town would likely need to purchase 10 at a cost of $600.
It is yet to be determined if CARES Act funds can be used to pay for the devices or if the money will need to come from elsewhere.
Selectman Gordon Andrews said, “I’m okay with the expense if we think it’s valuable.” He added, “The data seems to be conflicted.” Millias said, “It’s at least something we can do that’s minimally invasive and quick.” He noted, however, that the temperatures are “not necessarily telling.” Seelig said that he was envisioning the new safety protocol to be managed by each individual department.
Seelig also reviewed the mask mandate. Unless you’re in a closed building not open to the public or in an enclosed office not open to the public, you are supposed to be wearing a mask regardless of whether 6 feet away from someone. Seelig said that while he expects pushback from town employees, it would be better than dealing with complaints from residents.
“I’d rather deal with it internally than deal with it externally,” he explained. Viveiros said that while there was a bit of Covid fatigue going on in the middle months of the pandemic, for the last three weeks, everyone has been wearing a mask at all times at the fire station.
Seelig also reviewed some updated guidance from the state. While the initial guidance of quarantining for 10 days after exposure still stands, people can now test out of quarantine after 10 days as long as they meet certain parameters. Individuals must have had no symptoms of COVID and must continue not to have any symptoms. A negative PCR test after day 8 of quarantine must also be achieved.
Finally, individuals must continue to monitor themselves for the full 14 days and must get tested should any symptoms arise. Valery also added that this set of qualifications is based on the assumption that no one else in the household has tested positive for the virus.
Various Boards of Health in the state are sending a request to Governor Baker and other legislative leaders asking for $15 million in supplemental funding for Covid activities performed by the Boards. Seelig pointed out that if you breakdown the expense per person in the state, it was a really small amount of money.
“It can go a long way in a lot of communities to help staff in whatever community it is to perform the functions related to Covid,” Seelig explained. The selectmen voted to sign a letter of support for the measure.
The selectmen also signed the annual contract with the dog shelter in Lakeville.