By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – The Westborough Board of Health and the town Select Board discussed COVID-19 regulations regarding planned large gatherings at a meeting on August 10.
That meeting also featured Superintendent Amber Bock and a discussion of school reopening plans.
Focusing on large gatherings, members of the Select Board and Board of Health offered suggestions for guidance or mandates.
Board of Health member Melissa Mahr suggested regulations based on the number of people attending an event, although there was uncertainty over whether or not that should be based on the capacity of the event site.
“While I definitely would love to believe that citizens and residents will always do the right thing, that is not always the case,” Select Board member Patrick Welch said.
Welch said there is no downside to a mask mandate at public events, although Select Board Vice Chair Ian Johnson saw one.
“I respectfully disagree, I think the downside is you’re taking away people’s freedom,” Johnson said. “And I think that’s a huge, huge downside personally.”
Select Board Chair Allen Edinberg said that precautions could be taken for indoor meetings, including respectfully asking attendees to wear a mask. He noted that the town could continue to observe local trends in COVID-19 to remain safe.
“I think we look at hospitalizations, we look at the R-factor, we look at the number of cases and if it starts going above one and it spreads, we can always reassess,” Edinberg said, referencing a metric quantifying the ability and ease with which COVID-19 spreads, known as the “R-factor.”
COVID-19 cases have surged in recent weeks, jumping by 86% nationally between July 29 and Aug. 11, according to the New York Times. The rolling seven-day average of new cases on Aug. 11 was the highest it had been since early February, surpassing 118,000 cases.
In Massachusetts, the state-wide case average had fallen as low as 52 cases on June 28. On Aug. 11, however, that metric had jumped to 1,056 cases
The surge, blamed largely on the spreading “Delta Variant” of COVID-19, is being felt in local communities as officials urge residents to get vaccinated.
“Do we end up masking again?” Marlborough Health Director John Garside said in an interview with the Community Advocate late last month. “Maybe, right? We’re continuing to promote the vaccination through our social media, other PSAs.”
While there have been some breakthrough cases, state and local officials have emphasized that the coronavirus vaccines substantially decrease the risk of COVID-19 infection while further limiting the possibility of severe symptoms in those breakthrough cases.
There were three vaccination sites available in Westborough as of Aug. 11, according to the state VaxFinder service.
Those included the CVS on 74 East Main St., the Stop and Shop at 32 Lyman St. and the CVS at 330 Turnpike Rd.
The joint meeting of the Select Board and the Board of Health did not make any formal decision on large gathering restrictions at their meeting on Aug. 10.