CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are closing down its public buildings — including the school — after a resident was found presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus.
The decision was made Sunday during an emergency meeting of the Board of Health, Select Board and School Committee members, said Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher.
"We're really doing this out of an abundance of caution," said Boucher. "We have a large senior citizen population and we want to be aware of that."
Gem Environmental has contracted to come in and disinfect Town Hall, the library, the senior center, and the school.
The Clarksburg resident is the first presumptive positive for COVID-19 in Berkshire County. He was admitted to Berkshire Medical Center a week ago but was not tested until state and federal requirements were loosened on Friday. Prior to that, testing was only being done on individuals who had traveled to affected areas or were in close contact to those infected with the virus. The patient did not fall into those categories.
"We are taking proactive, precautionary measures with this public health issue and we will reassess the situation on Friday, March 13th," Town Administrator Rebecca Stone wrote in an email along with the notice of closure.
Superintendent of Schools John Franzoni said the individual, described as in his 60s, was not a school employee but noted that Clarksburg is a small town so there can be a lot of interaction between community members.
"This is just a precaution," he said. "It's a small town, there are a lot of connections."
In an email notice on Sunday afternoon, North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard said city officials were aware of the actions being taken in Clarksburg and that all the city's schools including McCann Technical School were "thoroughly disinfected over the weekend" and would open at their regular times on Monday.
"We are continuing to monitor this situation as it unfolds, and will make decisions and announce any changes based on the most current information available," he wrote. "We will continue to track and trend illnesses in all of the schools. Anyone who is ill should remain at home and we ask that you please consult with your primary-care physician if you have any questions or concerns about sending your child to school."
How a weeklong closure of the school will affect the school year has not yet been determined. Franzoni said he participated in a conference call with other superintendents and state education officials on Friday to begin addressing how schools will respond as more cases arise. He expected that a best practice will be forthcoming from the state on how the 180-day rule will apply.
"The [state Department of Public Health] was not recommending closure but we wanted to be safe," he said. Parents and staff were being notified on Sunday.
Several first-responders had also been asked to self-quarantine after contact with the patient. Boucher said there were were firefighters among them but was not positive if it had been two as reported. A police officer at the scene was not considered at risk because the officer had not been in close contact.
"We're just being extra cautious," Boucher said, adding that officials are expected to meet at the end of the week determine next steps.
A joint statement through the Northern Berkshire School Union reads: "The Clarksburg Board of Health has been notified of one confirmed case of the Coronavirus in the Town of Clarksburg. As a precautionary measure, town and school officials are closing the Clarksburg School, Clarksburg Public Library, Clarksburg Senior Center, and Clarksburg Town Hall effective immediately through Friday, March 13 in order to disinfect and thoroughly clean all facilities. Town officials will reassess the situation on Friday, March 13 and will issue an update at that time."
Health officials are investigating where the Clarksburg patient may have come into contact with the disease. The virus is believed to be spread through direct contact or spread through sneezing and coughing. It can cause respiratory distress, fever and coughing. Those over age 60 or with underlying medical conditions are considered most susceptible.
On Sunday, presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 more than doubled in Massachusetts, from 12 to 27. The confirmed cases remains at one.
An adult patient was also tested as presumptive positive at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. The patient came to the emergency room on Thursday with fever, cough, and shortness of breath and was immediately placed in isolation. Conclusive results are expected from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Monday.
People are encouraged to wash their hands, sanitize frequently handled surfaces, and to avoid or take precautions in crowded areas and around sick individuals. Recommended quarantines are 14 days. More information can be found on the DPH website.
Berkshire Medical Center's toll free hotline for questions or concerns about COVID-19 is 855-BMC-LINK, or 855-262-5465. The line is available seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Clarksburg School Committee Sounds Alarm on Town's Management
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
North Berkshire School Union Superintendent John Franzoni, left, and School Committee Secretary Ronna Brandt follow Thursday's meeting. Franzoni raised the alarm about the management of the town of Clarksburg and how it is affecting the town school.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The School Committee on Thursday decided to ask the Select Board to hold a joint meeting to discuss recent turmoil at Town Hall, its impact on the elementary school and what is being done to bring stability back to town government.
North Berkshire School Union Superintendent John Franzoni gave the committee an update on the situation in light of recent revelations of problems maintaining the town's books.
"I'm an employee of Clarksburg, and I'm concerned about my position, to be truthful," Franzoni said. "It's definitely a tenuous situation, and it needs to be discussed more openly. We appreciate that they're trying, but we need more."
Board member Ronald Boucher submitted his letter of resignation two weeks ago with nearly 2 1/2 years left on his term. The board on Wednesday morning set a date of Tuesday, Dec. 7, to elect his replacement.
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Frustrations over the financial quagmire in the treasurer's office boiled over on Wednesday when Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher took the town administrator to task and she walked out of the meeting. click for more