Town restricts functions as resident tests positive, selectmen consider emergency declaration
By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – After scrambling early in the week to adjust to new social distancing restrictions from Gov. Charlie Baker, Hudson officials announced they’re considering declaring a state of emergency March 19 just hours after the town confirmed its first case of COVID19 .
Selectmen will vote on the prospect at a special joint meeting with the Board of Health March 23. Little remains known about the first Hudson COVID19 case itself, though, as health officials have cited patient confidentiality in declining to divulge information.
“The people who need to know about it have been notified,” town Health Director Keli Calo said. “If it came to a situation where we needed to notify more people, we would…but for now, we can’t get into specifics.”
As of March 19, the latest statement from the town on that first case simply read that “the resident” contracted COVID19 “after recent travels” and was under quarantine.
The next day, though, the town announced a second positive case of COVID19 had come to their attention. In explaining that case, they did provide more information, noting that that patient was in their 20s and had also recently travelled.
That late-week news rattled some residents. But before it even broke, officials had already clamped down on a variety of municipal functions.
The Community Advocate has tracked and aggregated those moves below…
Stations closed to public, town rescinds burn permits
The Hudson Fire Department effectively shut its doors to the public March 18.
A statement by Fire Chief Brian Joannes assured residents that staff would remain on duty 24/7 to respond to all emergency needs.
As it did so, though, the statement also announced that residents will now only be allowed to access the vestibule part of the town’s two fire houses, where they can connect with 911 dispatchers through emergency phones. The same statement announced the indefinite cancellation of all station tours as well as a ban on outside groups using the department’s training spaces.
Outside of stations themselves, the fire department they will not approve new paper burn permit requests through the rest of this year’s “open burn season,” which ends on May 1.
The restrictions come in an effort to ensure firefighter and community wellbeing roughly a week after Executive Assistant Tom Moses told the Community Advocate he has been paying special attention to possible shortages in protective gear needed by first responders “on the front lines” of the COVID19 response.
Officials roll out ‘enrichment activities,’ launch food distribution program
Roughly a week after announcing their closure due to COVID19, the Hudson Public Schools have rolled out student “enrichment activities” and launched food distribution programs for low income students among other responses.
Announced March 17, the enrichment activities are ungraded work aimed at keeping students in a learning mentality during the unexpected break from classes that COVID19 has forced.
Hit with questions about more structured, online continuations of curriculum, however, Superintendent Marco Rodrigues clarified March 18 that he does not expect more work beyond these activities for students.
“This is an unprecedented situation that we hope will end soon,” he said. “We are eager to return to our normal operations and to be able to resume teaching and learning for all our students.”
Beyond academics, the district has also partnered with the First United Methodist Church to distribute food on offsetting days to the many students and families who qualify for free or reduced priced lunch and thus rely on school cafeterias for sustenance.
The district will distribute lunches at Quinn Middle School from 7:00am – 9:00am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays while the Methodist Church will then take over from 12pm to 2pm on Mondays and Thursdays.
Finally, a statement from March 17 confirmed the Hudson Public Schools currently have custodians in their buildings conducting a deep clean of all surfaces before formally shutting down the facilities until the final days before schools reopen.
MCAS and AP tests have been postponed until further notice and kindergarten registration is now planned to be conducted via mail the same statement said.
Building closed to public, crews remove scaffolding, halt renovations
Town hall closed to the public on March 17 as local offices moved to conduct business online or through drop boxes already installed in the building facade.
The only exception appears to be for public meetings, which officials are asking only be called for time sensitive issues. For those, the town is capping audience size at 25 as they work with local access station HudTV to find ways to enable remote public participation.
As town staff remained otherwise largely on duty, Executive Assistant Tom Moses said departments are encouraging social distancing within offices and are only meeting with the public to send and receive urgent packages and materials by appointment at the Town Hall’s two main doors.
Meanwhile, Moses wrote in a statement, the town worked early in the week to remove extensive scaffolding from around the Town Hall to allow better access to the aforementioned drop boxes on the building itself. Now free of that scaffolding, the Town Hall had been undergoing extensive renovations to its roof to address at times severe water leakage issues.
“This round of renovations are done,” Moses explained in an email to the Community Advocate March 20. “There are more to come, but none on the immediate horizon.”
Building closed as some programs continue
Following what Executive Assistant Tom Moses described on March 12 as “extreme sensitivity” to the needs of senior citizens to whom experts say COVID19 is most dangerous, the town has curtailed some Senior Center programming while continuing other crucial efforts.
The Senior Center building itself is now closed to the public.
The department’s Meals on Wheels program, however, will continue through the COVID19 crisis, a statement said.
The Senior Center’s busses, meanwhile, will remain partially operational, with staff still transporting elderly residents to and from doctors appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays while taking other days to properly disinfect all surfaces.
Building closed, fines waived, curbside pickup available
The Hudson Public Library has cancelled all programs until further notice while closing its doors altogether as well as locking its book drop.
It is waving all overdue fines for the time being and extending due dates until it can again reopen.
In the time being, staff remain on duty and are available to deliver books for curbside pickup to those who call ahead.
Parks open, events cancelled
All town fields and parks remain open. The town has, though, cancelled all planned uses of those locations by organized groups.
All locations closed, representative debunks internet rumor
Hudson’s private childcare agency, which provides preschool and after school care to residents, has closed all locations following an order from Gov. Charlie Baker restricting childcare operations statewide.
Contacted March 19, however, a company representative denied rumors spread online that Hudson’s first known case of COVID19 was a parent of a child who attends CHAPS.
Saying she would not comment directly on the topic, meanwhile, Health Director Keli Calo generally cautioned against the spread of potential misinformation during the current health crisis.
“People shouldn’t listen to rumors on Facebook,” she said. “It’s not a reliable source of information.”