Town Administrator Tom Mayo and Assistant Town Administrator Michelle Monsegur gave the following COVID-19 and Town services updates at the June 2, 2020 Board of Selectmen meeting.
- As of June 1st, the Department of Public Health (DPH) began reporting both confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and deaths. This change is in accordance with guidance from the CDC to include "probable" COVID-19 cases and deaths in data collection and reporting efforts.
- This change will increase the number of cases and deaths reported in Massachusetts. Starting June 1st, the newly reported totals are a result of a retrospective review of probable cases and deaths dating back to March 1, 2020.
- Probable cases are individuals who have not been tested by the standard viral (molecular) test. They have either 1) had a positive antibody test and either had COVID-19 symptoms or were likely to be exposed to a positive case, or 2) did not have an antibody test but had COVID-19 symptoms and were known to be exposed to a positive case. Probable cases also include individuals whose death certificate listed COVID-19 as a cause of death but who were not tested.
- As of today, DPH is reporting 101,163 cases in Massachusetts, of which 8,228 are in Plymouth County. As of last Wednesday, DPH was reporting 254 COVID-19 cases in Hingham.
- The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has been slowly decreasing since April 21, according to DPH data. The percent of people testing positive for COVID-19 continues to decline as well.
- Please remember to follow the state’s Safer at Home Advisory and only leave home for healthcare, permitted work, shopping, and outdoor activities. Frequent handwashing and social distancing remain critical, and face coverings are still required when you can’t maintain 6 ft. of distance from others in public.
- State guidance on summer camps and youth-serving programs was released yesterday. We are working through it as a community and will have more to report next week.
- On June 1, the Governor issued COVID-19 Order No. 35, which allows for preparation by certain businesses for Phase II reopening. Included in the Order for Phase II preparation is outdoor restaurant dining service.
- The Governor’s order authorizes the Town to approve expanded outdoor table service at restaurants, subject to state and local public health and safety restrictions.
- The Order relaxes both liquor license and zoning regulations and gives authority to the Board of Selectmen (as the local licensing authority) to approve expanded outdoor table service areas. Prior to the approval of outdoor table service areas, the Order requires that the Board of Selectmen establish the process for approving such requests.
- I have established a Restaurant Reopening Working Group consisting of Town staff and Town Counsel to (1) recommend the approval process for the Board’s review and adoption as required by the Order, (2) create a uniform and efficient application process for outdoor table service approvals, and (3) make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen in connection with such applications.
- The goal of the Working Group is to facilitate the reopening of Hingham restaurants in accordance with the Governor’s reopening plan in a manner that is consistent with the health and safety of the public, including social distancing, fire code, and safety in areas such as sidewalks and parking areas.
- The Working Group is made up of staff from the Selectmen’s office and our Health, Building, Land Use & Development, Police, and Fire Departments. We will create a separate email address that will be shared with all restaurants in Hingham for submission of applications and questions.
- A recommended process will be provided to the Selectmen for review as soon as possible, and a preliminary communication will be sent to all restaurant owners by the end of this week to explain the process we’re working through.
- We continue to work with the Town Moderator and various department on plans for this year’s outdoor Town Meeting at the Hingham High School multi-purpose field.
- General guidelines are as follows:
- Please bring your own face covering. All Town Meeting attendees and staff must wear a face covering for the entire Town Meeting, including while waiting in line to register, unless exempted by Governor Baker’s Order No. 31. Face coverings must cover each attendee’s nose and mouth and fit snugly against the side of the face.
- We encourage attendees to wear sunscreen and bring their own water, hats, and/or personal umbrellas for shade.
- All attendees will be seated 10 ft. apart.
- Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the venue.
- Microphones will be sanitized after each use.
- Restrooms will be cleaned and sanitized as needed.
- A cooling station will be available near the restrooms.
- Water stations will be available throughout the venue.
- You should not attend Town Meeting if:
- You are feeling ill or are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms such as fever (100.3⁰ and above), cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat;
- You have had “close contact” with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19. “Close contact” means living in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, caring for a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, being within 6 feet of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, or coming in direct contact with secretions (e.g., sharing utensils, being coughed on) from a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was symptomatic; or
- You have been asked to self-isolate or quarantine by your doctor or a local public health official.
- We will post an outdoor Town Meeting framework on our website tomorrow and we encourage citizens to read that document for more details about how this year’s Town Meeting will work.
Selectmen’s Office Updates
- Yesterday, our office received word that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection approved the Water Supply Business Plan for the Weir River Water System, without conditions. This is a huge milestone in the water system transition process and it represents a massive team effort by Town staff, elected officials and volunteers, Town Counsel, and our consultants.
- With the help of the Finance branch of our COVID-19 Incident Management Team (IMT), we submitted our first round application for COVID-19-related reimbursements under the CARES Act to Plymouth County in the amount of $60,000. Many thanks to Sue Nickerson, Heidi Gaul, and Sharon Perfetti for their work to track and document all of our COVID-19-related expenses since March.
Town Clerk Reminder
- Our Town Clerk, Eileen McCracken, wants to remind everyone about alternative voting options for this year’s Town Election on June 27, 2020 to minimize the risk of COVID-19.
- Applications for both Absentee Ballots and Early Voting Ballots are available for download on the Town’s website. You may also request a ballot in writing or by email to the Town Clerk.
- Completed Absentee Ballot and Early Voting Ballot applications must include your signature and can be emailed to TownClerk@hingham-ma.gov, mailed to the Town Clerk at 210 Central Street, Hingham MA, 02043, or dropped off in the drop box in the Town Hall driveway. Residents who complete these applications will receive a ballot by mail and must return it to the Town Clerk by June 27th.
- There will be no in-person early voting this year, but there will still be in-person voting on election day itself. We would like to remind Linden Ponds residents that their precinct has been moved, so anyone at Linden Ponds who wishes to vote in person may go to the Middle School for this Town Election.
IT Department Update
- In addition to our Health Department, our IT Department has been one of the busiest during this period. Steve Becker and his small but very capable team were responsible for helping employees across our organization set up and troubleshoot issues with their work laptops, desktops, and printers from home.
- They have responded to over 500 Help Desk calls and requests since we began working remotely, on top of quickly learning the Zoom platform and assisting staff and boards with Zoom requests each week.
- The IT team continues to support our COVID-19 Incident Management Team, coordinate COVID-19 updates and messaging for our website and social media pages, troubleshoot issues with our phone system, and work with Harbor Media and an outside vendor to complete upgrades to the audiovisual equipment in the Selectmen’s meeting room at Town Hall.
Conservation Department Update
- Although you haven’t seen them in the office, Loni Fournier and our Conservation team have been hard at work over the last few months advising homeowners, real estate agents, contractor, permit holders, and others on conservation regulations, policies, properties, and projects.
- Staff have been accepting new applications, conducting site inspections, corresponding with applicants/representatives, and preparing memos for the Conservation Commission, which has been meeting regularly via Zoom.
- They continue to respond to potential violations and to monitor conservation properties for downed trees, trash, signage maintenance, and other issues. They also reviewed applications and issued permits for Turkey hunting season, which ended on May 27th.