Health board discusses enforcing pandemic rules

May 5, 2020

MARION — At a May 5 virtual meeting, Public Health Nurse Kathy Downey asked for the Board of Health’s help in dealing with Marion residents that have coronavirus and do not want to reveal who they have been in contact with.

Downey said that she has turned to board member Edward Hoffer for support when patients have refused to help with contact tracing, and while he was extremely helpful she wanted to more authority to carry out the process. 

Board members responded that she should tell the person it is mandatory, not optional, and the board will fine people who do not comply. The board invoked the chapter of state law that gives it the ability to levy fines, but needed to check on how to do so.

Still, Hoffer said the move was good because “we need to have some teeth. We don’t want to have them arrested, and fining is one way of doing that.” 

The town reports that only two people are currently sick with coronavirus. In its weekly report on Thursday it will update that number and include the total number of cases that the town has registered, including those who have recovered. This is what the state does.  

Board members were split on how to handle reopening Silvershell Beach, which will not happen until after May 18. Recreation Department Director Jody Dickerson suggested the town make lines on the newly-graded parking lot and indicate where cars should not park through pavement markings. 

Board member John Howard agreed with Dickerson, but board member Dot Brown thought it would be more effective to use coronavirus grant money to hire a security guard to enforce the numbers. 

The town will send police officers to check multiple times a day, encourage residents to call in on violators and shut the beach down immediately if the plan does not work. Town Administrator James McGrail said he would do research on a security guard so the board could make a final decision on May 19. 

Harbormaster Isaac Perry told the board that he planned to open his dock-like floats to only slipholders and a few people who he authorized.

He will limit tie-ups to 20 minutes, but does not anticipate problems with overcrowding because most people do not linger, and the main section is wide enough for people to social distance.

For summer programming, Dickerson said he could wait as late as June 10 to make a final decision on whether to hold summer programming. However, he would like to know sooner if possible to be able to hire the best staff. 

On a positive note, all 180 people at Sippican Longterm Healthcare Center tested negative for coronavirus.