ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health will rewrite its COVID-19 Public Health Directive to establish more clarity in the advisory document.
The board said it will reconsider some of the wording and content, and Chairman David Rhoads agreed to pass the advisory document off to member Peter Hoyt.
"I guess what we are reiterating is what we have been saying for the past 15 months: wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and by the way there is a vaccine out there," Hoyt said. "... I think what we are trying to do is just reiterate that we don't want things to spiral out of control again."
On Sept. 9, the Board of Health held an emergency meeting to discuss the directive that asks the town to re-up its efforts to combat COVID-19 with more stringent mask and sanitation policies.
The hybrid meeting was well attended. Folks mostly spoke in opposition to the directive and the more impactful guidelines. The conversation was chaotic and often broke into discussions over the effectiveness of mask-wearing, personal freedom, and the virus itself.
When the board opened the floor Wednesday, it heard some of the same arguments. One resident felt the directive was an overreaction, rushed, and unfair to businesses. She wanted to know if the directive was enforceable.
This was a point of confusion at the last meeting and it was not clear if the document was a mandate or not.
Town Counsel Edmund St. John III agreed the document was not clear and used language that he would assume reflected a mandate. He said the board did not follow the right process to pass such a mandate.
"What you have in front of you is something that is not a regulation ... you confused this and you confused me," he said. "I told you that this gives the impression that is a regulation and to me, it is nothing more than an advisory."
He said it could become a mandate only if the board follow the right procedure and even then it could be challenged.
Selectman John Duval, who was in attendance, said the document was confusing, specifically the word "directive."
"I was very confused with the word directive because it can mean a few different things," Duval said. "It throws me off as a citizen member of the town of Adams government."
Duval asked that the board rewrite the document and have town counsel review it.
Rhoads agreed that the document was not a mandate and said the board wanted to publish an advisory that was stronger than a straightforward recommendation. He did agree that some wording needed to be changed.
"Like the word 'shall' that is a bad word. It will become 'should,'" he said. "I think I just wanted something stronger than advisory, but do we have a stronger word than that?"
He did admit that he was "stuck" in the wording of the document and asked Hoyt to take a crack at it.
Some members of the audience against the regulation said they agreed with the "call to action" sentiment now that it was clear that the document was not a mandate.
The board plans to review the updated document at their next meeting
Rhodes gave a brief presentation pointing to studies that reported the effectiveness of masks as well as increasing cases in the county and town.
Nancy Slattery, the town's public health nurs,e and Laura Kittross of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, were on the call to answer attendees' questions. At the prior meeting, there was an outcry for more information.
Slattery said her main concern is younger people who cannot be vaccinated becoming infected.
"The kids are the ones where we are seeing the rise in. Last month we had no children positive with COVID. This month we have 19," she said. "And those are the little kids ... it is the babies who we want to protect, and those are the ones who are getting sick."
She said about half the people she talks to in town are unvaccinated. She reiterated that COVID-19 is typically far less dangerous to those who are vaccinated.
"Vaccinated people have cold symptoms and, fortunately for them, that is good. Your unvaccinated people are pretty sick they are down and out," she said. "Vaccinated people are doing much better. If everyone was vaccinated we would be all walking around think we have head colds."
There was a question about co-morbidities and if those who succumbed to the disease would have been sick anyway. She said this is not the case and the virus amplifies co-morbidities
"Everyone has co-morbidities unless you are a young strapping athlete, but COVID-19 puts your co-morbidities over the top and you can end up dying," she said. "That is the issue with COVID."
Slattery said the Delta variant truly is far more contagious and makes isolating in a home very difficult.
"A year ago you could get away with isolating your teenager up in the bedroom and no one else in the house would come down with it," she said. "I am not seeing that now. One person gets sick — in days everyone else starts getting sniffly even if that teenager is hibernating in their bedroom. The Delta is nasty
Resident Wayne Piaggi, who attended the first meeting, was still let down the board did not have historical data. Specifically, he wanted to know the numbers of flu and pneumonia-related deaths over the past 10 years
Kitross said these numbers do exist nationally but not countywide although it probably could be calculated.
She did say looking at this national data it is clear that COVID-19 has caused far more excess deaths.
"I think your concern is that people who would have died of pneumonia three years ago are now dying of COVID and we are kind of double-counting them," she said. "I think that enough research has been done that to show that there has been an extraordinary number of excess deaths ... since March of 2020."
She said it was a good question. Hoyt agreed but noted those in the county who would be calculating this information are just far too busy battling the pandemic.
Piaggi said those numbers would still be helpful but thanked the board for holding a more organized meeting compared to the one prior.
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Adams Altering Two Precincts to Reflect Changes in Population
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen last week voted to alter Precincts 2 and 3 to better match population. This won't change the number of town meeting members but it will change the voting precinct for one.
Town Clerk Haley Meczywor presented new Census data to the board Wednesday and said with a decrease of 299 residents over a 10-year period, the state has recommended that the town change the borders of the two precincts.
"In order to make our precincts as equal as possible, the state is recommended that we make a minor change from Precinct 3 to Precinct 2," she said.
The last Census was done in 2010. Then, the population count was 8,485. In 2020, the count was 8,166 — a 299 decrease.
After an executive session Wednesday, the board voted to award Jay Hayes of Wayland North the project that will convert the former middle school's classroom wing into one and two-bedroom apartments.
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