Athol Health board wrestles with re-opening


For The Athol Daily News
Published: 6/28/2020 12:27:28 PM
Modified: 6/28/2020 12:27:26 PM

ATHOL — Health Agent Deb Vondal told last week’s meeting of the Board of Health that she and Assistant Health Agent Jane O’Brien continue to be peppered with questions and complaints regarding Gov. Baker’s phased re-opening of the economy.

Asked what the most common complaints have been, O’Brien responded, “I’d say on my end the most common complaint is face coverings, or a lack thereof, for both employees and customers.

“I did get a complaint about a business,” said Vondal, “so I talked to both the complainant and the company. I’ve reached out to the Department of Labor Standards. I think everything’s been worked out, but if it hasn’t, the Department of Labor Standards said I could refer the case to them.

“It’s something that really hasn’t been under our purview before. But it all has to do with the COVID-19 plan that every single business is supposed to have in place in order to be operating. There’s a basic plan and then there’s some sector-specific guidance, like for restaurants or outdoor recreation.”

Vondal also said she’s had a call regarding dressing rooms, although she was awaiting specific information regarding which store was involved.

“Was the complaint about the customer not being able to use one?” asked board Chair Marty Miarecki.

“She didn’t think the dressing rooms were allowed,” Vondal replied, “but I told her, as of Monday they are allowed. But there’s some specific guidance and I’m waiting for this person to give me some specific information.”

“I wondered about that one, too, Deb,” said board member Joan Hamlett, “because when I watched the conference on TV, they said dressing rooms could open by appointment. I was, like, how do you make an appointment for a dressing room?

“Does that mean you call ahead of time, say ‘I plan to shop and I might use a dressing room’? Or do you make an appointment when you get in there.”

O’Brien said it was her understanding that customers are supposed to approach store personnel to advise them they have items to try on, at which time they are told how long they’ll have to wait for a room.

“They’re calling it an appointment,” she said, “but it’s just letting them know you want to get in there. That way, they can control the number of people back there and how far they’re spacing them out.”

“I was assuming they needed appointments,” Hamlett said, “so they could clean in between.”

Vondal said several issues are involved.

“The clothes have to be quarantined for 24 hours,” she said. “They have to disinfect in between. The clothes either have to quarantined 24 hours or thoroughly cleaned before being returned to the floor.”

Regarding the specific complaint, Hamlett asked, “Is it a complaint along the lines of not having a COVID-safe plan in place?”

“Yes,” replied Vondal.

“Is it a matter of not having a plan on file, or they’re actually not practicing COVID safety measures?”

Vondal said the chain indicated it does have protocols in place, but appeared to be unfamiliar with the specifics of Massachusetts requirements, “but I think everything is worked out right now.”

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