Three confirmed COVID-19 cases, two ‘suspect’ cases, more than a dozen ‘under investigation’
📷 Screenshot courtesy of Southbridge Community Television livestream of March 20, 2020 emergency Board of Health meeting.
SOUTHBRIDGE — A public health emergency has been declared in this town after a 2-1 vote of the Board of Health during an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon.
The measure had been proposed by Health Director Andrew Pelletier as an emergency addition to the agenda of an emergency meeting. Pelletier said the declaration can better ensure funds coming to Southbridge, where there are three confirmed COVID-19 cases, two suspect cases, and “upwards of 15 people that are under investigation” at Harrington Hospital.
Roland LaRochelle said Southbridge is “unique” and has greater risks than a number of other municipalities.
“This community is unique. We not only have a nursing home, we have visitors into the hospital,” said LaRochelle. “We have these added risks, in my opinion, declaring this I don’t think hurts us.”
Pelletier agreed, noting he could not “think of any detriment” to the declaration being enacted. Instead, he said, it would help close loopholes and better ensure the Town is able to recoup COVID-19 related costs and receive as much aid and assistance as possible.
Board member David Williams was the lone dissenting vote on the measure, expressing his reticence with making the decision so quickly and without time to properly weigh the facts.
“I’m not inclined to declare a public health emergency without any documentation, without anything in front of me, without really thinking about this, or certainly not declaring this because it opens up funding opportunities,” Williams asserted. “There needs to be a public health reason for that.”
LaRochelle said he understood the concerns put forward by Williams, but also pointed to flexibility in procurement law and the precedent set forth at the state and federal levels.
“This allows us a lot of leeway on what we can do,” he said. “The governor already did it, so did the president. We are just now bringing this down to the local level.”