In her first Public Nurse Report to the Board of Health at its September 15 Zoom meeting, Lori Desmarais said there have been no new COVID-19 cases in Marion. There have been 18 overall.
Of lingering concern is Marion’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, which has been challenged ever since the town reported being misled by its vendor. Desmarais called last week for PPE updates and reported some shipments and expects larger ones to be forthcoming.
Desmarais said she needs to plan a drive-through testing operation for COVID-19. She noted that Sippican School has dedicated a room for any suspected coronavirus cases. School was scheduled to open September 16 on a hybrid format.
Tabor Academy was in its second round of testing as of Tuesday, according to Desmarais. Tabor tested its facility and staff on Friday, and on Tuesday a second round of tests for students was scheduled. Test samples are still going to the Broad Institute, where there is a 24-hour turnaround period.
Board member Dr. John Howard, a practicing physician, suggested that Desmarais will be able to resume home visits “any time now.” He estimates that health clinics are now seeing more than half of their patients in the office. “Most doctors’ offices are back, including the specialists,” he said. “Maybe not 100 percent, but they’re getting at least 50 percent in the office at this point.”
Board member Dot Brown said, “Home visits make more sense (than having patients come to her small office) and asked Desmarais, “Are you ready?”
“I’m still getting set up,” said Desmarais, who has taken over for the newly retired Kathleen Downey. “I obviously wouldn’t want to be seeing a bunch of people (in my office). Some are homebound and needing a flu vaccine. In that case, the home visits might be a little easier.”
Chairperson Dr. Ed Hoffer, a practicing physician, said it makes sense to offer those on an as-needed basis. “You have enough PPE, I hope,” he said. Desmarais said there is more PPE available at the Town House.
Hoffer said Marion will receive a $1,200 grant from the state to cover flu shots. The funds cannot be used for the vaccine itself but can be applied to related costs including equipment. In order not to miss a deadline to respond, Hoffer approved the grant on behalf of the board, securing a $1,200 source of income to help run the clinics.
Desmarais and Maureen Murphy attended a webinar on PrepMod, the flu-clinic system sponsored by the Massachusetts Health Officers Association (MHOA), and expect it will improve Desmarais’ time management. “She’s been a huge help with everything,” said Desmarais of Murphy’s assistance.
As Marion continues to consider solutions for emergency sheltering in the event of a hurricane, the town is switching its staffing from a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) group to a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Hoffer said the staffing is determined by the Chief of Police (John B. Garcia).
Health Agent Dave Flaherty has attended weekly COVID-19 meetings and emergency management meetings. He said Marion Police and Fire departments will lead the way in training for CERT volunteers.
In his Health Agent’s Report, Flaherty said that, while general spraying was completed by Plymouth County on August 10, homeowners can still call 781-585-5450 and get their yards sprayed.
Statewide, there have been four human positive tests for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus and 57 EEE-infected mosquitos found. Marion remains a low-risk town for EEE and West Nile virus threats, but neighboring Rochester and Wareham are considered high risk and Carver and Middleboro are among the critical EEE towns.
Flaherty reported having completed five routine inspections and encountered one mass complaint. He said he is working with Marion Indoor Tennis; the club wishes to open its doors in mid-October.
He said there is an information sheet available on rabies, and an oral vaccine available in the third week of September.
Flaherty told the board he is working on three sites for Chapter 2 violations.
At 33 Pitcher Street, Flaherty has sent letters via certified and First Class mail without response, whereas remediation was scheduled to start at 26 Pitcher Street on September 16.
A perennial problem at a residence on Front Street led to Building Commissioner/Zoning Officer Scott Shippey and the Marion Police to visit last week. There has been activity, but the house is for sale and the occupant is not planning to clean it up but selling as is. “It’s better than what it used to be… but not fit for human habitation,” said Flaherty.
Hoffer said there had been an existing order as of December that the house would be demolished without good-faith efforts to remediate. “If nothing happens in a month or so, I’ll call the police department and remind them of that,” he said.
Howard publicly thanked the press for reporting Marion’s need to establish a group of volunteers for CERT. Hoffer said that CERT is not offering any live training, but even without certification, some training and skills can be taught.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for Tuesday, October 6, at 4:00 pm and will be accessible via Zoom.
Marion Board of Health
By Mick Colageo