Townsend health board issues emergency order, cancels Halloween

Just in time for Halloween at Worcester’s Hanover Theatre
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TOWNSEND – The Board of Health voted to cancel Halloween in an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon, imposing an emergency order under state law, Chapter 111.

The board cited the spike in COVID-19 cases over the last couple of weeks as a reason for the action, including 15 new cases reported over the past weekend.

The board had left the issue up in the air at its previous meeting Monday night.

Chairman Christopher Nocella said the situation had gotten worse since Nashoba Associated Boards of Health agent Rick Metcalf on Monday reported a total of 21 cases in town, with two more cases added since and that in his view it was time for the board to take action.

James Le’Cuyer, the other member of the two-person board (down from three after the recent resignation of Linda Johansen) agreed. “We have an epidemic in town,” he said.

Noting the board’s recent decision aimed at keeping townspeople safe, that is, closing Town Hall to all but voter traffic and essential election personnel on Election Day, Nov. 3, he said it only makes sense to cancel Halloween celebrations as well, given the added risks posed by large gatherings such as costume parties and trick or treating.

He said that if people disagreed, so be it. This is the right thing for the town to do.

“I wasn’t going to turn on my lights, that’s for sure,” resident Sue Lisio said.

Metcalf said the red designation doesn’t apply until a community has high case number for three weeks.

But he agreed the rapid increase is cause for concern. “It’s a big spike, he said but not a complete mystery. Of the 15 new cases previously mentioned, eight came from three households, he said.

Resident Joseph Shank said he supports the board’s decision on the Halloween question. “As elected officials, I respect what you do,” he said.

The board turned the job of spreading the word to the Nashoba health officials. Metcalf said he’d issue the cancellation notice and get the word out via various means, such as radio stations and public message boards.

It will also be posted on the town website and as a Town Hall voice mail message.

Before adjourning the brief session, the board also discussed compliance with state COVID-19 restrictions and recent Nashoba orders.

Nocella said it’s a concern because people are talking about a Halloween costume party brewing at Yee’s Village, a Main Street restaurant and bar. Metcalf said the owners had been notified that under the state’s current pandemic restrictions, the establishment can’t function as a stand-alone bar and they definitely can’t have a big gathering there. Customers must sit at tables and order food, he said.

“We’ve visited twice… they know what the regulations are,” Metcalf said. And just in case the rumors are true, that folks may be planning to attend a costume party there on Halloween night, that’s off the table. Someone from Nashoba will pay the proprietors a visit, to ensure that’s understood, he said.

The board also agreed to ask the Police Department to have a cruiser drive by Yee’s on Halloween night to check up.