State of emergency

Mar 25, 2020 by

Published March 25, 2020

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to declare a state of emergency in order to help fight the COVID-19 virus during a virtual meeting on Monday.

“The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a highly contagious and potentially fatal respiratory disease, the prevalence of which is increasing rapidly throughout the world, inclusive of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Selectman Chris Barrett while reading the motion declaring the state of emergency.

Barrett recalled that the World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 virus as a “pandemic health emergency.” He also noted Gov. Charlie Baker issued a state of emergency and President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in order to respond to the outbreak.

“The Board of Selectmen, in consultation with the state Department of Public Health, has determined that COVID-19 presents a major disaster, which poses an immediate threat to public health, safety and general welfare of people residing both within and outside of Lynnfield,” said Barrett. “The Board of Selectmen of the town of Lynnfield has determined that immediate public action is needed in order to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 by and among the people of Lynnfield.”

Barrett said the state of emergency will allow the town to “take additional steps to prepare for, respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to protect the health and welfare of the people of Lynnfield.”

“Declaring a state of emergency will facilitate and expedite the use of resources to protect persons from the impacts of COVID-19,” said Barrett.

Barrett said the state of emergency “shall remain in effect until further notice is given.”

After Barrett finished reading the motion, the selectmen unanimously approved it.

In response to a question from selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford, Town Administrator Rob Dolan said the state of emergency accomplishes three important objectives. He said the declaration stresses that COVID-19 needs to be taken seriously.

“I think people understand that,” said Dolan. “It also allows us to make emergency expenditures, particularly in public safety and DPW as it pertains to cleaning municipal buildings. I know the state and federal government are both working on relief packages. This will allow Lynnfield to apply for reimbursement for any and all costs related to this emergency at both the federal, state and local levels.”

Crawford thanked the Emergency Management Team, which is comprised of Dolan, Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director Glenn Davis, Superintendent Jane Tremblay, Police Chief David Breen, Health Director Kristin Esposito-McRae, DPW Director John Tomasz and Lynnfield Center Water District Superintendent John Scenna, for their hard work during the crisis.

“They have been working day and night for the town,” said Crawford. “Assistant Town Administrator Bob Curtin has been doing a great job as well.”

Dolan also read a statement from Davis that urged residents to notify first responders if they are sick and need medical assistance.

“If you have flu-like symptoms, are quarantined or are under self-quarantine and need emergency services, please let the dispatcher know of your condition,” said Dolan. “Sharing this information with 911 dispatchers will help first responders take the necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.”

Dolan said there were 777 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state as of Monday night, which includes 73 people in Essex County. He said six Lynnfield residents have contracted the virus as of Monday.

“All residents are encouraged to continue practicing social distancing and maintaining a distance of 6-feet from other people,” said Dolan. “The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends that residents continue to wash your hands as much as possible and to keep your hands away from your face. Cover your nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing with a tissue, and discard it immediately.”

Dolan encouraged people who are sick to “stay away from stores, work environments and any environment where there is other people.”

“Town Hall is closed to the public, but I want to remind citizens that if they call the office number for a particular service, a department head will call you back,” said Dolan.

Dolan said the town’s yard waste disposal area will be open for residents on Saturday from 8 a.m-3 p.m.

“No sticker is needed,” said Dolan.

Dolan reiterated that the town’s fields, parks and playgrounds are closed to the public.

“That includes basketball courts, tennis courts and the local golf courses,” said Dolan. “We ask citizens to please respect that.”

If residents have any questions about COVID-19 or the town’s response to the virus, Dolan said they can call the Emergency Management Department at 781-334-8141 or can visit https://www.town.lynnfield.ma.us/.

Dolan said the selectmen might schedule another virtual meeting on Monday, March 30 to discuss potentially moving the April 14 Town Election to a later date. He recalled that the State Legislature fast-tracked a bill on Monday that will allow municipalities to postpone local elections.

“The law allows a municipality to move an election any time from now to June 30,” said Dolan. “We have to give an exact date, and we must give 20 days between the date of the election and when we announce. There are no contested races in the election.”

The selectmen held the meeting virtually after Baker issued an emergency order that allowed municipal boards and committees to bypass a number of the state’s Open Meeting Law provisions in order to promote social distancing. Baker’s order allows officials to attend meetings via phone or video conferencing.

While municipal officials will be allowed to meet without the public in attendance, the order requires officials to make accommodations for citizen access through “adequate, alternative means.”

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