Hurricane Season Poses Potential Complications

            A discussion resurfaced in Tuesday’s remote access meeting of the Marion Board of Health regarding how to shelter residents during a natural disaster.

            “We’re supposedly going to have a bad hurricane season this year – who knows?” asked Chairperson Dr. Ed Hoffer, pointing toward the more accessible question about whether Sippican School can contain the number of people that might need shelter in such a situation, especially those requiring isolation due to COVID-19. Hoffer reported on a walkthrough, noting that some rooms have access to their own bathroom.

            The alternative of local hotels or motels add cost but also eliminate the need for volunteers on site.

            Sippican can quarantine in its smaller rooms, but, “If we end up with more than two or three families, there would be a problem,” said Hoffer, who is also concerned about the age-related vulnerability of volunteers. “In many cases (they are) not people who ought to be involved dealing in COVID cases.”

            Member John Howard suggested recruiting new volunteers through various community institutions like area churches, Lockheed Martin, and Tabor Academy.

            Health Director Dave Flaherty told the board he has a friend involved with Bridgewater’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) with an emergency-preparedness background going back to his days in the U.S. Army. “Very knowledgeable,” said Flaherty, who suggested a Zoom meeting that could benefit the Board of Health in recruiting volunteers.

            In his update, Flaherty said that all testing at the beaches has come back negative. He said that residents can call Plymouth County Mosquito at 781-585-5450 to get their yards fogged. The county has reported seven EEE-positive tests including five in Carver. Flaherty said Marion remains at a low-risk level for EEE and West Nile virus.

            The board congratulated Flaherty on his recent election to the Massachusetts Environmental Health Association (MEHA) board.

            Marion Health Nurse Kathy Downey reported five new communicable diseases in the last week, including two that were tickborne. There has been a 20 percent increase in COVID-19 testing, but all tests have come back negative. Marion residents, said Downey, can be part of the “Stop the Spread” campaign by getting tested in New Bedford at any one of eight sites at no charge. For more information, visit

            The CDC distributed new guidelines effective July 17, including a reduction in the number of isolation days required after positive tests. Until last weekend, people needed to improve for three days in a row without the aid of medicines like Tylenol, etc. Now it’s 24 hours.

            Downey also reported that she is working with Tabor on its reopen plan.

            Hoffer reported four applicants to replace Downey, who will vacate her position on August 19. Hoffer told the board he will screen those applicants with Town Administrator Jay McGrail toward the end of this week and narrow down the field to two finalists to bring to the board for interviews.

            The Board of Health will not be among Marion’s boards/committees meeting live at the Music Hall. Despite the invitation and work done at the facility to ensure safe distancing, Hoffer, Howard, and fellow member Dot Brown all expressed preference to continue meeting on Zoom.

            “Hopefully, until we don’t need to worry so much about social distancing; we will continue to meet on Zoom,” said Hoffer.

            Hoffer beefed up an existing mission statement he had considered “woefully inadequate” to describe all that the Board of Health does, including a request from Brown to include surface waters on the list of things monitored. Town Manager Gil Hilario suggested the members visit the Harbormaster’s page for further examples on how to improve their page’s appearance and he would be happy to make requested improvements.

            The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for July 27.

Marion Board of Health

By Mick Colageo

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