Monson’s municipal offices are open by appointment only, as the city’s COVID-19 rating remains in the state’s high-risk red category.
Monson Select’s board of directors voted unanimously to move its public hours by appointment only to coincide with the city’s assessment last week. The new policy change officially began on Monday, February 1. At the time of discussion at the board meeting on Tuesday, Jan.26, Monson city administrator Evan Brassard said the state’s Department of Public Health was placed in the red category. at high risk. Category.
“Our average daily incident rate is 61.3 and our percentage of positivity is 10.6. 10.6 is a pretty substantial number for us, ”Brassard said at the meeting.
At the time, the community had 72 active cases. According to the DPH’s latest weekly report, the city’s number of active cases has fallen to 53 cases, its average daily incidence rate to 45.1 and its percentage of positivity to 8.11 percent.
Brassard brought up the subject of city hall hours of operation to the public after several staff members expressed concerns. He noted that there had been four COVID-19 deaths linked to staff members in the past few months. As such, he said he developed an approach whereby city offices would only open to the public if the city’s rating via the DPH’s weekly report changed from red and yellow to green and / or gray. . The president, Dr Richard Smith, said he agreed with the approach if it made staff more comfortable.
“It looks like the building is secure. There is glass in between. Everyone is separate. I would say it’s up to the people who are in the building. It’s up to them to decide, ”said Mary K. Hull, Board Member. “If this is how they would feel safe, then we should choose what makes them feel safe.”
After receiving unanimous approval, Smith opened some time for public comment, many of which focused on the ongoing pandemic and the city’s status.
Resident R. Keith Valley spoke about the increase in positive cases of COVID-19 in the city and the fact that while some may be due to the winter season, he also estimated that a number of people do not did not adhere to the mask’s mandate. He said he felt the city was lacking an effort to stop the spread.
Valley further noted that he felt Hull, who is also a member of the Board of Health, was not fulfilling his oath to the city to “take care of the health and well-being of the community.”
Valley cited parts of a letter he submitted to Board of Health Chairman John “Beau” Schneider, asking Hull to step down from the Board of Health.
In the letter, he claimed that Hull is “an anti-masker” who has been tasked with educating and enforcing the state-ordered mask mandate and “recites exceptions to the mask mandate rather than educating business owners on the rules “. The letter also referred to Hull’s interview with The Journal Register regarding his participation in the pro-Trump rally in Washington, DC on January 6 as a “patriot.” The rally resulted in a deadly attack by some on the United States Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election.
Resident Karen Nothe-Valley echoed Valley’s sentiments.
“Mary Hull shouldn’t be the unmasked face of education and law enforcement. It’s embarrassing that we have a city official who went to Washington for the insurgency and was maskless and she was never held responsible, ”Nothe-Valley said.
Hull did not respond at the meeting to allegations she does not support mask requirements and did not comment on her participation in the January 6 rally in Washington DC
Resident Chris Carlin asked the board how they think the city is doing in its handling of the pandemic and its approach to minimize the spread.
With the tenure under the direction of local boards of health, Smith said he believed the city was doing a decent job, but believed the board of health’s communication could be improved. Smith also said he felt repeating the handwashing and sanitizing messages at the state or federal level would be redundant and Hull agreed.
“People know they are supposed to wear masks. My biggest concern now is suicide, depression and other things. It’s not just about people wearing masks. We have a lot more to do here. The suicide rate is through the roof. Some of these schools are reopening for this reason alone. There are other things we need to weigh here, ”Hull said. “I understand people: ‘everyone should wear a mask’ and ‘Mary is a bad representative’… you have a right to your opinion. I do a lot. Just because I don’t post everything I do on Facebook and the conversations I have. There are other aspects to it and my biggest concern at the moment is the mental well-being in this city.
Carlin asked Hull where these statistics came from regarding Monson. Hull said suicide rates were on the rise around the world and suggested Carlin do some research for himself.
“I guess I’m asking you, as the public official who made the statement, if you could back up that statement with facts,” Carlin said.
“With the kids in town, oh sure. I’ve talked to tons of them, ”Hull said, as a back and forth began to ensue.
” Tons ? Carlin asked.
“It’s bad. A lot. A lot. Don’t get like that. Don’t be mean because I’m not making the point you want to hear, please. That’s a big deal. Go talk to these. people. That’s the statistic you need, “Hull said.” … People under 23, 25 percent have considered suicide … related to the coronavirus. It’s a fact.”
Board member Ed Harrison stepped in to ask if this statistic was related to Monson.
” It’s everywhere. It’s all over the country. It’s the same everywhere. It is terrible what we are doing to these children, ”she said.
At this point in the discussion, Smith suggested we move on.
Harrison said that on his trips around town, which include a daily trip to the post office and frequent visits to the drugstore and grocery store, he sees more masks “than you can wield a stick.” .
Hull said legally if a resident indicates after someone asks him or her that they have a health problem not to wear a mask, “that’s it.”
“You can’t throw them out of the store. You can’t tell them they can’t get in anywhere. You can ask them for social distancing and you can make special accommodations for them. You can discriminate against them for not wearing a mask and that comes straight from the CDC, ”she said.
According to Charlie Baker Government Order No. 55 on COVID-19, all people in the Commonwealth over the age of 5 are required to wear face coverings in public places indoors and outdoors at all moment, unless a person is unable to wear a mask. due to a medical or disabling condition. If a customer refuses to wear a mask or face covering – whether or not they have a health problem – the operator of a facility or business can deny entry to the individual, says the order.