Boncore: ‘We are Coming Out of the Woods’

The Winthrop Town Council held a remote meeting on March 9, where it discussed the latest updates regarding the coronavirus epidemic.

“We look like we are coming out of the woods on the pandemic situation,” said Council President Boncore.

Winthrop is currently in the Yellow Zone with a 2.62 percent positive rate. The town has had 2,030 cases with 35 deceased and 38 in isolation. The vaccine rollout is expanding, and educators are now eligible to receive it.

Vaccines are available at clinics in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere by appointment only by calling 617-568-4870. Appointments for at-home vaccines can be made by calling the Emergency Operations Center at 617-539-5837.

Town Hall mailed flyers to homes in Winthrop with information about vaccinations. More information can also be accessed on the town’s COVID website, winthropcovid19.com.

The Town also started a rental relief program on March 1, where renters can seek financial aid. The program will be available through the end of the month, or until the state curtails it. Information about this program can be found on the town’s website.

The Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has declared that K-5 students should be back in the classroom full-time no later than April 5, and middle school students no later than April 28. It has not yet made a recommendation about high school students.

“Our kids have not been in full-time school in over a year. That is an emergency,” said Councilor Rob DeMarco. “I implore anyone who has the ability to send our kids back to school on April 5.”

Caller Shannon Poulos, who also wrote a letter to council on the matter, agreed.

“You have to put pressure on this town to lead,” she said. “We are not leading.”

“I want to get the kids back in school, too,” said Pres. Boncore, “but we can’t go against the governor’s orders.”

Town Manager Austin Faison gave an update about the reopening of municipal buildings. Staff will return to Town Hall by April 1, but so far there is no date set for when the public can return.

“I hope that will be soon,” said Councilor Jim Letterie, who has consistently voiced his support of reopening Town Hall.

Faison defended his decision, citing that reopening efforts in Texas were roundly condemned as premature by the health community.

“We’re not going to flip a switch and have everyone come back,” he said. “We’re going to continue to listen to health professionals.”

The library still has no reopening date set, but a parklet was installed near the building, complete with heating and Wi-Fi, so that patrons can check out materials and enjoy them outdoors.

Many library staff have returned to full-time hours due to a number of retirements in the department. Faison said he is speaking with staff about reopening to the public, “with a focus on keeping people safe.”

But some people think this is too little, too late, like resident Julie Barry.

“Restaurants are open at full capacity. It’s time to open the library,” she said during the public comment period. “It’s a safe haven and a tremendous resource. Enough is enough.”

Regarding Town Hall, Barry said, “Mask up and open the doors. It’s time to start meeting in person.”

She added that Zoom was “never meant to be a long-term solution.”

Councilwoman Tracy Honan disagreed.

“I’d rather be sitting at home without a mask, then in person with a mask,” she said.

Caller Wendy Millar-Page concurred, reminding the council that it had agreed to “continue with Zoom for the foreseeable future.”

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