With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Marion, Board of Health Chairperson Dr. Edward Hoffer is concerned about the consequences facing Marion if the coronavirus maintains its ascending trajectory.
“Our numbers, which were pleasantly low in the spring and early part of the summer, have now skyrocketed [and] we are now in the ‘red,’” Hoffer said during the November 17 Board of Health meeting.
A recent surge in COVID-19 cases prompted the state to designate Marion as a ‘high-risk’ community on the Department of Public Health’s color-coded map that tracks the spread of COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth. Marion had been ‘unshaded’ or ‘low-risk’ until November when it joined the growing list of other municipalities as another red spot on the map.
“There’s no risk of closing schools — yet,” said Hoffer, “but we may well hit that point.”
According to Public Health Nurse Lori Desmarais, there were 39 active COVID-19 cases in Marion as of that afternoon. Of those 39, seven cases are residents from the community-at-large, Desmarais said, while 32 are linked to Sippican Healthcare Center operated by Whittier Health Network.
Sippican School has just identified one positive case linked to its pre-school. According to Desmarais, six Sippican School students are currently in quarantine; five of those cases have been confirmed, with one still in isolation awaiting test results.
“With all those cases, [I] have been working closely with the school nurses as far as doing the contact tracing, figuring out who would be in quarantine, and following them throughout their quarantine,” said Desmarais.
After the board discussed its preliminary fiscal year 2022 budget, Board of Health member Dr. John Howard expressed concern about the impact COVID-19 could have on the FY22 budget should the pandemic persist well into 2021. “Obviously, the pandemic is going to continue into the fiscal year 2022, so we have to be mindful of expenses that are going to be related to it,” said Howard.
Early in the discussion, Hoffer suggested the board focus on other more general areas of the budget not related to COVID-19. “COVID is not going to dominate our agenda forever; Lord, I hope not,” said Hoffer.
Board member Dot Brown emphasized the need for the town to acquire Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, which the Board of Health could use. She suggested the board insert a financial placeholder in its budget to purchase an annual $2,000 subscription for all departments to use. Hoffer said the board should expand services to Marion’s growing senior population and offer fall prevention assessments and other programs to help elderly residents remain in their own homes.
Hoffer pointed out that the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other pandemic-related expenses would remain a priority over the coming months. Still, with no sign of any impending action from the federal government in terms of expanding coronavirus relief, “There are no guarantees that any further funding will be available after December 31.”
As far as she knows, Brown said Marion has already spent the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding it has received thus far, which was required to have been expended by December 31 anyway.
“Anything that we need, we better get it quick,” said Hoffer, “because after December 31, that money may not be there anymore.”
In other matters, Desmarais said there are still some doses of flu vaccine available for Marion citizens, including a few of the high-dose vaccines. To schedule an appointment for a flu vaccine, call 508-748-3507.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health will be on December 1 at 4:00 pm.
Marion Board of Health
By Jean Perry