The Winthrop Town Council met remotely on Tuesday, July 21, where it discussed, among other things, the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in town.
Public Health Director Meredith Hurley reported that, as of Tuesday evening, the town had seen 289 confirmed COVID cases, with 237 recovered, 28 in isolation and 24 deceased. She showed a graph with some alarming trends. While cases dropped in Winthrop between April and June, a significant spike was seen in the first weeks of July.
She said the dramatic shift could be due to “quarantine fatigue”, as individuals get tired of being indoors; and Phase 3 reopening in Massachusetts, which started on July 6 and allows for fewer restrictions. Council President Phil Boncore also blamed massive beach crowds with no social distancing or mask-wearing.
Director Hurley’s chart also showed youth under 20 accounted for 50 percent of all cases in July, compared to just five to ten percent of all cases in other months. She pointed to a false sense of security when Winthrop had no new cases for a period of time.
Police Chief Terence Delehanty said he is working with the health department to develop signage to educate the public about safety guidelines. He empha-sized parents and adults need to help with the enforcement of safety protocols among children and teens.
“We hope they’ll continue to reinforce our messages,” he said. “Children shouldn’t be sharing vapes, or finger food.”
An outdoor graduation is planned for the high school for July 23, but officials urged graduates and parents to skip out on parties this year.
“Have a celebration at home with family, but let’s not have a congregation of youngsters going from house to house,” said the council president. “We don’t want another spike in youth cases because of parties.”
Town Manager Austin Faison reiterated the importance of social distancing and mask usage and said Town Hall, which is the biggest employer in town, is exploring a plan to reopen in September.
“This is not going back to normal any time soon,” he said, citing the recent spike in cases. “I want to get people back to work, but until we can make people safe, we will provide services remotely.”
The Town purchased electrostatic cleaning apparatuses and installed plexi-glass in almost every office, but it still needs sanitizing stations and desks will need to be arranged six feet apart. One challenge is figuring out how to work in shared spaces given the airborne nature of the virus.
“We are following what science is telling us,” said Faison, adding he has worked more hours during the pandemic than at any time in his career.
The state is currently in Phase 3 of reopening, which allows for indoor seating. The Inspectional Services Department conducted a safety check of all restaurants and found them to be in compliance with state and local guidelines. Gov. Charlie Baker has said he will not consider moving to Phase 4 until there is a vaccine.
Town Manager Faison announced that the library is offering curbside pickup and dropoff of physical materials, while also expanding its digital collection. Library Assistant Katrina Donovan called to say the library could help with quarantine fatigue by offering remote programs for residents.
“We would really like to help,” she said. “We would like the chance to serve the community.”
Human Rights Commission
The Town Council passed the motion establishing a Winthrop Human Rights Commission. The commission will consist of nine members appointed by council and will serve for a term of at most three years. Council appointed six com-missioners during the meeting and is currently seeking three more.
The School Committee met on July 9 to discuss reopening plans. Currently, the district is working on plans for three different scenarios: fully remote learning, in-person learning, and a combination of the two. They are hoping to be prepared whatever the situation may be.
A safe, socially-distanced graduation ceremony is set for July 23, but Council urged graduates and parents that there should be no parties outside of immediate family gatherings.
There are current member openings on the following Town Committees: Planning Board, Airport Hazards, Commission on Disability, Scholarship.
The Town issued 159 warnings in ten days on Point Shirley as part of its parking pilot program there. The warnings are a preliminary measure to educate the local community. Warnings will be issued for at least one more week prior to fines being implemented.
DPW Director Steve Calla declared that the CBD project is well underway, though about one and a half months behind schedule due to inflow of water at high tide on Woodside Ave. There is a possibility the project timeline will be ex-tended into the winter.
Town Manager Faison reported that the new water sewer rate would be $23.65, which is a 75 cent increase. The next time the town is due for a discussion on the rate will be June 2021.
The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) was disbanded and its members moved to the Transportation Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC). Council will make appointments to the committee in the future.
Four individuals received citations from the Council: Joe Clark – Board of License, David Stasio – and Vincent Zappulla – Winthrop Planning Board, and Michael Rinaldi – Conservation Committee.