Dudley officials prepare for expected COVID-19 ‘rough patch’

Purcell warns local numbers ‘can turn bad really quick’

📸 Screenshot of Dudley Board of Selectmen video conference meeting of April 9, 2020.

DUDLEY — Local officials said this town has fared relatively well thus far in slowing the spread of COVID-19, but warned that could change drastically in coming weeks.

During Thursday evening’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Health Agent Tom Purcell said the 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus put the community at the lower end of the spectrum, but noted the anticipated surge in the spread of the virus may very well hit Dudley.

“The people of the Town of Dudley are really doing a pretty good job with social distancing. They’re beginning to take this disease very seriously, but this is not the time to let up our guard. We’re going to be in for a rough patch for the next three to four weeks,” Purcell warned. “We’re one of the lower communities around, but things all of a sudden can turn bad really quick.”

Town officials continue to stress the need for residents to adhere to precautions such as social distancing and frequently thorough washing of hands.

“All I can ask is that the good residents of the Town of Dudley be patient with the stay at home order, and the social distancing, and be vigilant with hand-washing and hygiene,” Purcell said. “I encourage the residents to wear masks if you can, if you have them available. It isn’t going to hurt to wear them; it may very well help. The other thing is to check on your friends, your neighbors, and see how they’re making out with food, water, medication, and do a well-being check. Just remember we’re all in this together, and we’re not here alone. Stay well.”

Fire Chief Dean Kochanowski echoed the call to adhere to COVID-19 precautions, specifically keeping hands clean.

“If you have the availability of hand sanitizer, I know it’s hard to get right now, but if you have that availability, keep a bottle in your car, keep a bottle in your pocketbook, and use it more liberally,” Kochanowski suggested.

The fire chief also called on individuals to be more diligent in properly disposing of gloves, saying he has seen a number of them left discarded in parking lots.

“People are leaving them in parking lots, just disposing of them next to their car and driving away,” Kochanowski said. “That’s bad.”

Leaving gloves is not just an environmental concern, but Kochanowski suggested it could result in “spreading the virus worse.”

PPE obtained, but more sought

First responders and other essential municipal employees are hoping to acquire more personal protective equipment (PPE), having received some from government agencies and from the general public.

Kochanowski said the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency recently delivered PPE, all of which was distributed to police and fire personnel, but he continues to lobby for additional supplies.

📸 Dudley Police Department photo of a locally made reusable face mask.

“I’m still trying to get more for both departments as well as water, sewer, and highway,” he told selectmen.

Police Chief Steven Wojnar noted that a local resident has made reusable face masks for the police department. The individual responsible for the manufacturing of the masks received assistance from members of the public in procuring elastic materials used to help secure the mask.

In other COVID-19 discussion, Kochanowski said there has been a significant decrease in the number of ambulance calls.

“The call volume has actually decreased steeply. We’ve gone multiple days with no calls,” he said.

The fire chief theorized the decline could be attributed to people staying at home rather than engaged in strenuous activities, as well as members of the public heeding advice to contact their primary care physicians for non-life threatening maladies.

“Nobody is doing anything, nobody is going anywhere. They’re staying home, they’re relaxing,” Kochanowski said. “People with underlying conditions are not exerting themselves.”

He advised: “Don’t call the ambulance unless you have a life-threatening emergency. Call your primary care physician and get the appropriate care that way.”

When medical calls are received by the fire department, personnel are taking various levels precautions depending on the symptoms reported.

“If we have calls where people have symptoms we’re going as far as putting gowns on, masks, goggles,” Kochanowski explained. “Most general calls don’t involve those symptoms, it’s just a surgical mask and sometimes goggles, sometimes no goggles, depending on the symptoms.”


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