Town Council Meeting Dominated by COVID-19 Updates

On Tuesday, March 24, Town Council met remotely for its regularly scheduled meeting, where the agenda was dominated by updates about the COVID-19 outbreak.

-Moment of Silence

The meeting began on a somber note, as Council President Phil Boncore called for a moment of silence to honor the first individual in Winthrop to lose his life to the pandemic. The 87-year-old veteran was also the first person in Massachusetts to succumb to the virus. Council President Boncore also asked for a moment of prayer for four other residents who have since tested positive, as well as for Winthrop’s first responders.

-Emergency Fund

Council unanimously voted to transfer $50,000 from the Town’s Free Cash fund into a newly established fund to fight the COVID-19. Generally, motions regarding funds are moved into the Finance Committee, but Council President Boncore brought the matter to an emergency vote to get it underway as soon as possible.

-Emergency Operations Center

Winthrop has activated an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in order to monitor the spread of the virus and to streamline services to vulnerable residents. Residents who are self-quarantining must report this information to the EOC. The EOC is also coordinating food delivery to elderly, homebound or quarantined residents. The center can be reached at 617-539-5848, Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm, or via email at [email protected].

“People working there are doing an outstanding job,” said Council President Boncore. “If there’s a situation, let [them] know. We want to take care of you.”

-Practical Information

All parks, playgrounds and beaches are closed for the foreseeable future. The Town is willing to divert resources to breaking up any gatherings of ten or more. However, they prefer that residents take the initiative to socially distance.

Council President Phil Boncore said he was surprised to see a group of nine teens skating together at the skate park.

“We want them to play, but not in groups,” he said. “Parents, watch your children. It’s not a joke.”

As of noon on Tuesday, March 24, non-essential businesses were ordered to close. Search online to see a full list of what is considered an essential business. Bars and restaurants can still serve take-out meals and offer curb-side pickup, and they were recently inspected to ensure proper sanitization.

“Support these businesses,” said Town Manager Austin Faison. “They are operating for you.”

Municipal offices remain closed but residents can conduct business on the Town’s website. Town Hall staff are working tirelessly behind the scenes so that business continues as usual. The Town is taking steps to ensure that its staff have the technology to perform their duties remotely.

 Emergency services buildings such as police and fire stations are being cleaned and sanitized at regular intervals. The Department of Public Works has ordered a Clorox steam-cleaning machine for use in public buildings.

The Winthrop Food Bank is in desperate need of donations of non-perishable items and paper products to deliver to homebound residents. Donations are accepted 11am to 1pm at the Cummings School.

“This was the first day we did a dropoff from the food bank,” said Faison. “We ran out.”

Residents are urged to contact their primary care physician in the event they develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath.

-Winthrop Public Schools

The School Committee has been meeting virtually and Supt. Lisa Howard has been conferencing with administrators and other superintendents across the state. Together they are formulating a plan for educating students remotely. Her office puts out weekly newsletters, as do principals and teachers at all of the schools. Council urges parents to review these and to remain attentive to their children’s educational needs. It is unclear whether schools will reopen before the summer.

The district is offering free bagged breakfasts and lunches to Winthrop school students. They are available for pickup at the high school. Leftover meals will be donated to the food pantry. The School Building Assistance Committee approved the purchase of four Clorox steam-cleaning machines to help keep the schools sanitized.

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