Westborough officials address COVID-19 related complaints

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By Jennifer L.  Grybowski, Contributing Writer

Westborough –  The Board of Health and Board of Selectmen met jointly July 8 to discuss some COVID-19 related issues.

Selectman Leigh Emery said she had witnessed a party with over 100 people in her neighborhood with live entertainment and people didn’t appear to be wearing masks. She wondered what could be done about such parties, if anything.

Board of Health Chair Nathan Walsh said block parties are not allowed and that she should have felt free to let the police know what was going on.

“You could notify the Board of Health, but we don’t have enforcement action so we would notify police,” he said.

He pointed out that live entertainment is allowed, but the entertainer(s) must be 10 feet from other people and 25 feet from the audience; individual groups must be of 10 people are or less, although multiple groups are allowed; and that there are eight people per thousand square feet allowed outside, with a 100 person maximum.

Director of Public Health Steve Baccari disagreed with Walsh’s advice, pointing out that a block party is typically a permitted event.

“We have been told by [Department of Public Health] we cannot get involved on private property,” he said.

Board of Health Member Alan Erlich said he would encourage neighborly conversations in a constructive manner as people felt comfortable. He also wondered to what extent the police are paying close to attention to the guidance as it changes.

“I am hesitant to encourage people to call the police for a non-violent situation and things are escalating quickly these days,” he said. “I think things need to be put into perspective. We have relied on voluntary compliance for the rules and that has been by and large successful. My own bias is that we need to keep trying to encourage people to do the right thing but I think bringing in law enforcement should be a last resort.”

Syed Hashmi, who is a selectman, as well as a member of the Board of Health, agreed.

“The police have enough things to worry about,” he said. “This is personal responsibility.”

Selectman Allen Edinberg said he had received several correspondence from residents wondering about Cold Harbor Brewing’s operations. In particular, he said people have mentioned people turning in and refilling growlers, patrons sitting on the hill or in the parking lot and a lack of food truck when alcohol is being served.

“You need to have food table service being provided to serve alcohol,” Walsh said. “So to serve, there needs a food truck or something. And people should not be going up to the bar to order, but table service should be provided.”

Sanitarian Ray Gauthier said he has received similar complaints. When he checked in with the managers, he said, the growlers were being handled properly and said Cold Harbor does have a food permit with the town, and that bar food like pretzels or nuts are considered food. He also said he believes for breweries the guidance is different and that table service is not required.

The BOH team agreed to keep working with the managers, and bring in the building and fire departments if necessary, since those two entities are required to have approval for an establishment to operate outdoors temporarily. The BOS agreed to research the alcohol serving guidance, since they issue all liquor licenses.

Finally, both Baccari and Town Manager Kristi Williams said the town is starting to get requests to use town properties for gatherings and events, and were looking for direction on if the town was ready to start giving out permits. The boards agreed to follow along with state guidelines, but due to conflicting information in some documents, decided to do some further research before moving forward.