By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Governor Charlie Baker recently announced a four-phase approach to opening the state. On May 18, Phase I went into effect. Assuming positive health data, Phase I should last roughly three weeks.
Locally, the Shrewsbury Board of Health is paying attention to compliance regulations and workplace safety standards, including operations, staffing, social distancing, and hygiene and disinfecting protocols, as more sectors of the economy begin to open.
“All of the direction for this is coming from the state,” stated Board Chair Stephen Vigeant. “All of the local boards of health have the authority to enforce the requirements that go along with the re-openings.”
The board is prepared to issue appropriate penalties from verbal warnings to fines for noncompliance. If a business refuses to comply, they will have to shut down.
Vigeant explained that the role of the Board of Health is to educate people and that the board does not want to be in the position of having to fine or shut down a business.
Complaints will be investigated by a health agent from Shrewsbury or from the Worcester Division of Public Health and, if an infraction is found, the business will be issued a verbal warning.
If a second warning were required it would be in written form and then, if a third is necessary, the business would be fined.
“The direction given to us from the state is that we can fine up to a maximum of $300. They suggested starting at $100 then going to $200 then $300,” Vigeant noted.
After a third fine, the Board of Health has the ability to force the business to close by obtaining a court order.
Vigeant said that they have not had to do this yet but that it was very early in the reopening stage.
However, during the stay-at-home orders there were a couple of instances where non-essential businesses were open against state mandates. “Cease and desist” letters signed by Vigeant were sent to the offending parties.
As businesses begin to reopen, town buildings are also slated to open June 1, though according to Vigeant, “the Board of Health has not been involved in the strategy for opening town buildings.”
Under current guidelines, only 25 percent capacity occupancy is allowed per room in each building.
To find the latest information, visit https://shrewsburyma.gov.