BOH declares public health emergency in Southbridge

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.”


5 thoughts on “BOH declares public health emergency in Southbridge

  1. While Board member David Williams is entitled to his opinion, I feel as what harm can this be as it’s always better “SAFE” than “Sorry.” The citizens of Southbridge will probably feel less anxiety & might even start taking this seriously as some don’t.

  2. Is it true that there are two confirmed cases in the high-rise at 60 Charlton Street?the elderly in this building need to be protected and don’t know why they have not moved to confirm cases out of here. We have totally lost our freedom in this building and really should be protected

  3. I just finished an article regarding, Larry Brilliant, MD, a physician who helped end the Polio crisis. He noted that unless there is widespread testing, there will be no way to differentiate between those who have been infected from those who haven’t. Additionally, infected individuals, will require two negative tests before considered cured. To date, those who recover from the virus, are to be presumed immune, and can renter society. He suggests that those who are considered immune should be identified and given a formal badge, etc., and resume their jobs. That way schools and other essential services can resume. It is known from data collected in China and now Italy, that cases of the Covid-19 virus are only expected to worsen dramatically. If we have confirmed and suspected cases of the virus, it is prudent that Southbridge declare a state of emergency. This is a public health crisis and the town has to err on the side of caution to protect the community.

  4. Es tiempo de actuar, no esperar que hallan más
    Casos. Este pueblo es pequeño pero visitando por muchas gente ñ. Así que tomen medidas ahora y no esperen que se ponga peor.

  5. It is time to act and not wait for it to get worse. A single case is already a lot, so I don’t know what to expect to take all the measures I have to take. This town is small but full of care for the elderly, children and factories. Let’s move.

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