Still in shutdown mode, Townsend awaits guidance from governor

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

TOWNSEND – In a conference call Tuesday morning and with a reporter on the line, the Board of Health, Town Administrator James Kreidler; the town’s sanitation agent, Rick Metcalf, of the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health and members of the local emergency response team met remotely to discuss the current state of affairs in town related to the COVID-19 pandemic that has triggered shut downs across the state and the nation.

In terms of when to open town buildings, they agreed to wait for guidance from Governor Charlie Baker, who was expected to extend his current closure order past its May 4 expiration date and in fact did so later Tuesday, moving the deadline out to May 18.

To date, Townsend lists 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up by three from the latest on-line posting. Nobody knew, however, what the status of those cases might be, as in how many are “active,” whether anyone counted in that list had succumbed to the virus or if anybody had recovered.

Metcalf said he didn’t have specifics but promised to provide them next time.

Given the impact of Sterlite, a major employer in town, on the COVID-19 case count, the NABH agent was asked if all those individuals live in Townsend. Yes, he said, the list is based on residency, not workplace.

As for how many total cases were reported among Sterlite employees, he couldn’t say.

“I only report on the towns we cover,” Metcalf said. However, he did have a nugget of good news. On a recent visit to the company, he noted new policies in place, in line with CDC guidelines.

Kreidler asked for “clarity” in terms of Sterlite’s green light to operate as an “essential” business, per the State health department.

Metcalf said that after some “initial confusion” on that point, word came from the governor’s office through the local state representative that the company had the “official designation” required to stay open.

As for food service establishments such as Gourmet Donuts, another area of concern for the health board, public health nurses recently visited the business and “recommended” that employees there wear P.P.E. – masks — on the job, Metcalf said. And if getting the masks is a problem, the company was informed that NABH has a donated cache to dole out as needed.