Athol Health Agent: Six new cases of COVID-19

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/28/2020 3:06:05 PM
Modified: 5/28/2020 3:05:59 PM

ATHOL — Health Agent Deb Vondal told members of the Board of Health Tuesday the town had gone through a significant amount of time with no new cases of COVID-19, but that came to an end last Friday, May 22.

“We had 12 days of no new cases through Friday,” Vondal told the board, “then, over the weekend, there were six additional cases. So, we stand right now at 56 cases to date. Fifty-one are cleared, so we have five active cases right now.

“I guess the big point that I want to offer is that we still have to be vigilant. COVID-19 is not going anywhere. It’s a novel virus and until there’s a vaccine we still have to follow the basic guidelines — the physical distancing, the face covering, the hand washing, stay home if you’re sick — all of that. And that is all particularly important as we go through this phased reopening.”

Vondal was quick to admit that guidelines and requirements for reopening can be a bit confusing.

“(Assistant Health Agent) Jane (O’Brien) and I have been trying to download the numerous guidelines,” said Vondal. “There are universal worker safety protocols that apply to everyone. Then there’s sector-specific guidance. We’re just trying to wade through all of this.”

She said once Gov. Charlie Baker announced his reopening plan, the phone lines in her office started ringing.

“The phone calls started coming in right away,” Vondal said. “We’ve had questions on church services, questions about the dentist offices, about pools, outdoor classes. I’m working with the school district now. Jane is on the advisory committee for opening the town hall. It just goes on and on.”

There is, said Vondal, one issue upon which there is no debate.

“Every business has to have a COVID-19 control plan,” she said. “Our department doesn’t have to make sure everybody has it; it’s going to be complaint based. As complaints come in, we will tell those businesses — whatever business it is — ‘you need to show us your COVID-19 control plan.’ We’ll see what the complaint is, what the plan says, and then move forward on that.”

Board member Joan Hamlett also pointed out that, for now, offices are limited to 25 percent of their pre-pandemic capacity, meaning businesses can only recall 25 percent of their workforce or figure out a way to rotate occupancy.

“One of the new things,” said Hamlett, “is that, prior to someone entering your business, if they didn’t have a mask, you could tell them ‘no service.’ But now, if somebody’s coming to your business and they don’t have a mask, you’re supposed to have a supply on hand to supply them with one.”

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