The Winthrop Town Council met remotely Oct. 6 for its first meeting of the month where it heard updates about the pandemic, school reopening and other issues facing the community.
Winthrop still finds itself in the Red Zone according to the governor’s infection map.
As always, Dept. of Public Health (DPH) Director Meredith Hurley gave an update about the state of the pandemic in Winthrop. As of the time of the meeting, there had been 415 total cases, with 24 deceased, 21 in isolation and 370 recovered.
“We had nine new cases between Friday and Sunday, which is concerning on many levels,” said Hurley. However, she noted that the majority of these were due to household spread rather than an outbreak.
Council President Phil Boncore gave his customary warning to residents.
“We’re in the red again for the eighth week in a row,” he said. “Please people, be conscientious, social distance, wear your mask, wash your hands. We’d like to get back to school.”
Free testing is available six days a week until the end of October at the McKenna Basketball Courts.
More information about how COVID-19 is impacting the town can be found at winthropcovid19.com.
The School Committee met on Sept. 28. The Winthrop Public Schools have been operating remotely. The superintendent and school principals have received positive feedback from some parents regarding the distance learning model, as well as suggestions for how it could be improved upon.
The committee also received numerous public comments and letters urging the reopening of schools for in-person learning. However, across the country, schools that started in-person learning are quickly reverting to remote learning as students and staff test positive for coronavirus.
In Mass., Gov. Charlie Baker encouraged the introduction of in-person learning in 16 towns that have so far managed to control their COVID-19 rates. Needless to say, Winthrop was not one of them.
The DPH held a successful flu clinic on Saturday, in which 157 vaccinations were administered. Hurley has ordered extra shots from the state this year. The clinic was the first in a series that will be held throughout November and December and is open to all residents over the age of two. Due to the strain already being experienced by healthcare workers, all residents are encouraged to get a flu shot.
Town Staff Return to Office
Town Manager Austin Faison announced that “a fair amount” of town staff have returned to municipal buildings such as the library and town hall on Oct. 5 as previously planned. All buildings have been retrofitted with germ shields and hand-sanitizing stations, and staff are required to fill out a symptom checklist before entering the office.
However, Faison noted that he is preparing his staff for the possibility of having to return to fully remote work in the future.
“My priority since March has been to keep people safe and healthy,” he said.
White Cane Awareness Month
Oct. 15 is White Cane Awareness Day, a campaign to increase public sensitivity to blind people who walk with a cane or with a guide dog. In Massachusetts, vehicles must come to a complete stop when a person with a white cane or guide dog is crossing the street.
The Winthrop Dept. of Public Works is about halfway done painting bike sharrows. Sharrows are road markings that make streets safer for cyclists by showing motorists how to safely pass people on bikes.
Outdoor Dining Ordinance
The Winthrop Board of Health met on Sept. 25, where it discussed possibly extending the town’s outdoor dining ordinance. Councilor Peter Christopher stated that the ordinance has been a success so far and would be in favor of making it permanent so that businesses can plan for the future.
A lot of the meeting was dedicated to a discussion about the recent protest presence at Town Hall (see story on Oct. 15.)