Faison: ‘Put Community First’ – COVID Spike Dominates Council Meeting

The Winthrop Town Council met remotely on Tuesday, Nov. 10, where councilors and town officials urged personal responsibility in combating the pandemic.

Due to a resurgence of COVID-19 across the Commonwealth, Gov. Charlie Baker recently issued a number of statewide orders. These include restaurants closing at 9:30pm; a stay-at-home mandate from 10pm to 5am; masks for all individuals over the age of five, including outdoors; and a new limit of ten for indoor gatherings.

Gov. Baker also changed the metrics that dictate where a town falls on the color-coded map of the state. After 12 weeks in the Red Zone, Winthrop was downgraded to a Yellow Zone. But this is not due to a drop in cases. In fact, cases in town have been on the rise.

Since the council last met on Oct. 20, Winthrop has seen a dramatic increase in new cases, with 228 added in just the past three weeks. One outbreak was linked to 15 residents who attended Halloween parties at the University of New Hampshire.

As of Tuesday night, Winthrop had 666 positive coronavirus cases, with 24 deceased, 94 in isolation and 545 recovered. Currently, Winthrop has a higher positive COVID rate than the state of Massachusetts and Suffolk County, and is the second most affected community after Lawrence.

Astrid Weins of the Winthrop Board of Health said she was “gravely concerned” by the current numbers.

“We need to do everything we can to get our public to follow the orders,” she said. “We need to step up as a community to stop the spread.”

Weins added that the Winthrop Department of Health (DPH) was “at its breaking point.”

“If this continues, we will need more help for our health department,” she said.

Town Manager Austin Faison echoed her sentiments.

“We need to try as hard as possible to get out of this place,” he said. “There’s only so much we can do as a government in terms of enforcement. We need to stress personal responsibility.”

Faison added that avoiding large gatherings was essential, especially as the coming winter drives people indoors.

“I have family too. We’re all going through this together,” he said. “People need to put the community ahead of their own interests.”

Schools continue to operate remotely, with the school department proposing a return to the hybrid model as early as Dec. 7, pending the results of a feasibility study. For a school to be eligible for in-person learning, it has to remain in the Yellow Zone for three weeks.

Testing will be available at least until the end of the year and all residents are encouraged to get tested.

“Get tested, we need to know,” said Council President Phil Boncore. “If you are asymptomatic, still get tested so you don’t bring it home and infect your entire family.”

The council president also pointed out how DPH Director Meredith Hurley has been working around the clock to track the spread of COVID-19, especially since two of her assistants recently tested positive for the virus.

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you’re doing,” he told her.

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