WILMINGTON, MA — At the latest Wilmington Board of Selectmen’s Meeting, Health Director Shelly Newhouse and Fire Chief Bill Cavanaugh provided an update on the town’s COVID-19 response.
The town’s current active case count stands at just 4 positives with 1 additional resident in quarantine.
“It’s been kind of a roller coaster over the past couple of weeks. We had some really great zero numbers. Then we went up a bit. Then we went down a bit,” said Newhouse. “We’re back down again, which is good. We can hopefully keep moving in the right direction.”
“It’s still so important for people to social distance and wear masks,” stressed Newhouse. “You need to think about what you’re doing and where you’re going. I think that’s why we had a little spike in cases… I had some people who went away on a trip and weren’t really thinking about [COVID]. They then became positive, which escalated and made more people positive.”
“That’s part of the reason why I took myself off of social media,” Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony later observed. “I’m amazed at how many people are going away for the weekend out-of-state and coming back and acting like it’s no big deal. I’m terrified that this is going cause us to spike.”
“It could,” responded Newhouse.
In her department’s latest social media update, Newhouse encouraged Wilmington residents to follow the Governor’s new travel order, which is now in effect:
Starting August 1, all visitors and Massachusetts residents returning home, including students returning to campuses for the fall semester, must fill out a “Massachusetts Travel Form” and quarantine for 14 days unless they are coming from a COVID-19 lower risk state or they can produce a negative COVID-19 test result administered no more than 72 hours prior to arriving in Massachusetts, or they are included in one of the other, limited exemptions.
Individuals who get a test must remain in quarantine until they receive their negative test results. Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.
Travelers are exempt from this requirement if they are coming from a state that has been designated by the Department of Public Health as a lower risk COVID-19 state or fall into another narrow exemption category.
Based on current public health data, those lower risk states will include: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Hawaii.
Traveler exemptions include people passing through the state, people commuting across state lines for work, people traveling to Massachusetts for medical treatment, people complying with military orders, or people traveling to work in federally designated critical infrastructure sectors (essential services).
“Social media can create a lot of anxiety and confusion over what’s going on in the country,” O’Mahony told Newhouse. “We’ve hit a certain phase that allows us to eat inside restaurants, and now some people feel this is over and we shouldn’t be wearing masks anymore and that social distancing is a joke.”
“All the businesses that can open in Phase 3 have been calling. They must have a current and correct plan. I work with each of them to ensure things go smoothly for them,” responded Newhouse. “I get emails everyday about bigger businesses that aren’t in compliance with social distancing in their workplaces. Most of the time, I talk to the managers and visit the sites… I haven’t encountered anyone that’s been in noncompliance because they don’t believe this is real. Everyone is doing the best that they can.”
“I’m working all the time. I don’t just answer questions between 8:30am and 4:30pm. I was on the phone on July 4th with a business in town worried about a potential case they had,” added Newhouse. “It may take a little bit of time to respond if I have to research the answer. And sometimes the state doesn’t always know the answer. I have twice weekly calls with the state and colleagues where random scenarios come up. A lot of times the state just tells us ‘the guidance is coming, the guidance is coming,’ but getting things in writing can be tough.”
In response to another question from O’Mahony, Newhouse believes Phase 4 could begin in August.
“I hear August, but we have to continue to see downward trends. All the other states are spiking,” noted Newhouse. “I hope Massachusetts has already hit its high and will continue to go on the decline.”
Fire Chief Cavanaugh noted the public safety departments are “basically back to normal.”
“We’re still seeing some COVID-related calls. We’re seeing COVID transports out of AdviniaCare because they’re a step-down unit. But the calls have been few and far between. Nowhere near where we were in April or May. We’re pushing forward,” Cavanaugh told the board.
All of the Selectmen praised the work Newhouse and Cavanaugh have been doing for the town.
“You’re both top-notch. The Town of Wilmington couldn’t have made it through without the two of you and and the other first responders in Wilmington, as well as the DPW, Town Hall, and town workers,” said Selectman Kevin Caira. “We’re very lucky and fortunate to have you in the positions you are in for the Town of Wilmington.”
“You’re handling this with such professionalism and thought… The residents of Wilmington should be proud of you and all its town departments,” added Selectman Gary DePalma, who noted the Fire Department saved his life back in March. “There is no one better. I’m here today because of you and I thank you.”
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