Five employees told to stay out of work after recent air travel

📷 Screenshot courtesy of Southbridge Community Television livestream of March 20, 2020 emergency Board of Health meeting.

SOUTHBRIDGE — Five Town employees have been placed under restrictions by the local Health Director after recent air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Southbridge Board of Health held an emergency meeting at Town Hall early Friday afternoon after Health Director Andrew Pelletier told five Town employees to quarantine and not report to work for five days after their recent travel.

Pelletier, after discussion with individual members of the Board of Health, had placed the employees under the restriction based on their travel and guidelines on how soon symptoms of the coronavirus may begin to show. Those employees include the fire chief, two EMTs, and two Department of Public Works employees.

“I made a decision to quarantine Town employees who have gone through domestic flights, gone through airports, to quarantine them five days,” said Pelletier. He noted that symptoms “usually occurs in five days.”

He added: “Any town employee who took domestic flight … would be quarantined for five days based on the reasonable assumption that symptoms would show up by that time.”

Pelletier expressed concern that each of the employees are imperative to the Town’s potential responses and actions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an alternative to staying out of work, employees may report to work and have their temperature recorded every day for five days, wear a face mask for the entire work day, and immediately leave the workplace for even mild symptoms of the coronavirus.

“Two DPW workers who may be critical to the response of the Town if we go into any kind of government lockdown … We have a fire chief who is included in this. The fire chief is also the emergency management director and he will become critical in any type of response,” said Pelletier. “I also have two EMTs who I had specific concerns about bringing the corona into the [medical reserve corps] group, and therefore possibly devastating the group, however, they might be critical to making sure that things stay staffed enough to keep the group alive, to keep the group active.”

Board of Health member Tony Postale affirmed his support for Pelletier’s decision before the panel voted unanimously to support the steps in the form of an official directive.

“The community’s health is foremost, however, when you have people in these critical positions you need to look at all the data. I believe you took the correct actions as the information stood at that time,” said Postale. “I get that new information keeps coming in on an hourly basis, so we need to be able to react and adjust with this new information.”

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