Marion cancels public meetings, halts Senior Center programs

Mar 13, 2020

MARION — The town halted programs at its Senior Center and cancelled all public meetings for a week, and is working on setting up a food delivery program for seniors to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. 

The Board of Health and Emergency Preparedness Team met on March 13 to review the town’s plan for coronavirus preparedness going forward. They plan to distribute information through ORCTV, which can air it on local government channels. 

This could be the beginning of a long stretch of prevention measures for the town, as Public Health Nurse Kathy Downey said the town is just at the beginning of the disease’s progression (with no confirmed cases yet). She said she would be “happily surprised if this is over within two months.”

As of March 13, the town has suspended all programming at the Council on Aging for one week, and it will reassess at that time how to proceed. Marion will continue to provide transportation to doctors offices, and all Council on Aging vehicles have been sanitized. 

The town will not offer trips to grocery stores as it normally does, but will look at expanding its meals on wheels program and work on establishing a program where the town would purchase groceries for seniors using emergency funds and deliver them to houses. The town has already requested donations of food items listed at the end of this article. 

All public meetings are canceled through March 22, since Town Administrator Jay McGrail said he realized that it “doesn’t necessarily take a large gathering to transmit the disease.” He will reassess next week on how to move forward. 

For now, Town House will be open, but McGrail said that could change that afternoon or Monday. 

Downey cautioned against directing those who suspect they may have the virus to call her. This adds what she called an extra layer to communications. “When you’re sick you don’t need an extra layer,” she added.  

Doug White, superintendent for Old Rochester Regional School District, gave a status update on where the district is. He had one conference call with other superintendents this morning, and has another scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, March 13. 

He said that the state is not going to make an announcement on whether schools should stay open or closed, and will leave it up to schools at the local level.  

He did clarify that other schools that are closing for two days are closing for cleaning purposes, since the recommendation is to wait a day after closing and then clean. 

The state has relaxed the 180 day requirement for schools, and said that they should go no further into summer than 185 days from the start of the school year, which would be June 24 for Old Rochester Regional. White also said that the school will move to essential education only, and any field trips, out of state or international travel are cancelled. 

Downey asked if White had considered the longer picture for the school, such as a scenario where they may not open for two months if they closed. 

If schools are cancelled, or move to online instruction, the state has ruled that it could not be considered the same as in-class instruction, and any assessments that teachers make would not count. 

Tabor Academy was not at the meeting, but Assistant Town Administrator Judy Mooney said it had attended a previous emergency preparedness meeting. The Marion school is currently on school break, which ends March 24. Mooney said that only one student was traveling to a location that had been declared as critical for the virus, though Downey clarified that others were abroad in areas that may become critical. 

The Town House and the Elizabeth Taber Library will be deep cleaned on Monday. 

Food donations for seniors can be delivered to the Police Station, Fire Station #1 (on Spring Street), and the Community Center (donations there can be left at anytime in the outside container). 

Helpful items include bottled water, peanut butter, jelly, canned soups, canned beans, canned vegetables, canned fruit and applesauce, tuna, cereals and oatmeal, pasta, pasta sauce, crackers and granola bars.