Updates from the Town Manager

April 7, 2020

29 confirmed cases with 12 active.

The Select Board approved various spots downtown for Takeout/Delivery parking locations to make it easier for people to enjoy our food establishments while maintaining social distancing. I will be working with the DPW and downtown businesses to get the signs up designating the areas.

I’ve attached my powerpoint with updates from last night’s meeting.

If you get this before 6:30pm, tune into the Jenks Center’s sponsored presentation on the coronavirus on WinCam either streaming through the internet or live on TV.

April 6, 2020

The current number of COVID-19 cases in Winchester is 28, with only 13 of those being active.

The Commonwealth ordered flags are at half staff in recognition of the lives lost at the Holyoke Soldiers Home.

The Town is evaluating the impacts of Bill H. 4598 that was pass last week. The bill allows for:

  • remote town meeting - however, we may need additional legislation and some key votes might not be able to be done remotely
  • extend real estate tax due date to June 1. the Select Board will need to vote on this.
  • curbside alcohol pickup along with food takeout - check with each restaurant
  • suspending some inspections and approvals of projects until 45 days after the emergency

Call volume is slightly down in police and fire, so hopefully everyone is keeping themselves safe the best they can.

Public works is sweeping streets. Residents need to park in their driveways whenever possible so that we don’t have to work around the cars.

Governor gave an update at 3:45pm today. Tomorrow, there will be a new site in Lowell that will test 1000 per day. Later this week, there will be another drive through testing site at the Big E. He also announced that Eastern Bank is launching a relief fund. More information can be found at: www.macovid19relieffund.org.

Winchester is working on its own fund with United Way that should be ready to launch shortly aimed at Emergency Financial Assistance.

April 3, 2020

No Change to the Status of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases as of 2pm today.

I was glad to hear that Gillete Stadium will open up as the second testing site for public safety personnel free of charge (Shrewsbury was the first).

As we head into the weekend, please remember to choose activities that keep you and your family safe. The Governor closed DCR Beaches and Parks as of Noon today. https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-additional-steps-to-encourage-social-distancing-at-state

April 2, 2020

I am saddened to report that a Winchester resident has passed away from complications due to COVID-19. Please click this link to see the attached press release. The total cases remains at 24, including 4 that are out of isolation and 1 death.

Also please note that the Governor has issued several new emergency orders this week. They can be found at the link below. The lasted advisory on state parks and beaches are not up yet, so I’ve copied the press release below.

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-state-of-emergency

April 1, 2020

As of this afternoon, there are 24 residents who have tested positive as confirmed by the Department of Public Health. This number includes 4 people who are "recovered" and no longer in isolation. This does not include people who may have coronavirus who are asymptomatic and/or have not been tested.

My office has been receiving questions about when various taxes and fees are due. Here is the latest as of 4/1/20:

  • Income Tax - Filing deadline for both federal and Massachusetts state filings and payments extended from April 15 to July 15. Note that not every state is the same so check your state for more details.
  • Winchester Transfer Station Permits - residents can pay for this online. Transfer station accepting 2019 stickers on a temporary basis.
  • Real Estate Tax - There is legislation pending that will allow the Winchester Select Board to move the due date from May 1 to no later than June 1.
  • Excise Tax - There is legislation pending that will allow the Winchester Select Board to waive any interest and penalties if the event of late payment of any excise, tax, betterment assessment or apportionment thereof, water rate or annual sewer use or other charge added to a tax for any payment with a due date on or before or after March 10, 2020 and made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020.

We have been also receiving inquiries about where to donate gear/volunteer. The state set up a centralized portal to both donate and requisition Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-ppe-procurement-and-donation-program

Government Budget impacts. The Town is keeping an eye on its spending and will be reviewing next year’s budget request in light of impacts on revenue and the economy. The state will be holding a new revenue consensus hearing on April 7th, and will issue a consensus revenue number in the weeks after. We will continue to monitor what kinds of impact this will have.

March 31, 2020

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced several updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak including extending the non-essential business emergency order and guidance for Executive Branch employees until May 4.  You can see the guidance by clicking on the link below.

Baker-Polito Administration Extends Non-Essential Business Closures and Executive Branch Employee Guidance  

I want to send thoughts and prayers to the families impacted by the deaths reported at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. And a thank you to the many employees that work at facilities like this across the country and to the people willing to speak up.

Many of us have older or sick relatives and friends that we are unable to see in person as many nursing homes, hospitals and facilities are no longer allowing visitors. We all want to make sure that our loved ones are cared for and kept safe. The CDC has guidance for Long Term Care Facilitates and Nursing Homes at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities/prevent-spread-in-long-term-care-facilities.html. Note that if any facility is concerned that a resident, visitor, or employee may have to be exposed to Coronavirus, they should contact their local or state health department immediately. The Winchester Health Department has reached out to these facilities already and will continue to do so to give them guidance. If you are concerned about a family member or facility, please contact the Health Department at 781-721-7121. Complaints can also be filed at the State by calling 800-462-5540.

Please also consider calling your elderly neighbor to check in on them. If they need resources you can call the Winchester Jenks Center at 781-721-7136. If you suspect that there is any elder abuse including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, caretaker neglect, financial exploitation, and self neglect, you can report this 24 hours a day by phone at 800–922-2275.

For employees, please see the link below regarding Employee Rights. We have posted these in town buildings but as many of you might be working remotely we will include this in our employee self service and find other ways to get the word out.

The current count of positive coronavirus test cases in Winchester is 20. Many experts are expecting that the peak might be happening in April. The ability for us as a community to practice safe social distancing and good hygiene will go a long way to flattening the curve and keep more people safe.

Thinking of all of you. Please let me know what else we can do to keep you informed and keep each other safe and well.

Employee Rights

March 30, 2020

Last week, the Governor issued an order that all non-essential businesses shut down until April 7 at noon. He encourage workers to work remotely and to follow social distancing protocols. The following day, the Department of Public Health issued a Stay at Home Advisory for Individuals Over 70 and for those with underlying health conditions. Governor Baker held a press conference at 1pm today and mentioned that he would be commenting on this more tomorrow.

Today the President has extended nationwide restrictive guidelines through the end of April. Press “control” and click on the underlined areas for the links.

Massachusetts Schools are closed until at least May 4th. The Town will follow the same timeline at this point in time and keep public buildings closed to the public and consider whether to reopen on May 4th at a later date.

The number of cases in Winchester is 16 as of last night. We expect this number to grow. At a call with 150 other town officials yesterday afternoon, it was unclear whether the state has asked town’s to stop reporting individual numbers. This is due to the inaccuracy of the #s because of lags in testing, the unknown number of asymptomatic individuals, and that even those with symptoms may not get tested and counted. Therefore it is still the best practice to follow social distancing.

The state started Buoy Health, an online tool that allows Massachusetts residents to get advice from an online health assistant safely at home for free. After the system asks users a series of questions, Buoy connects residents with the appropriate health care resource based on symptoms and risk factors for COVID-19. https://www.buoyhealth.com/symptom-checker/?configuration=ma_covid&concern=coronavirus

ENKA Fair made the difficult decision to cancel this annual tradition that began in 1935 (originally scheduled for May 15-16). Town Day is postponing until September and will need to go before the Select Board with a new date.

March 26, 2020

The Select Board voted to postpone  Town Meeting until June 8 and the Town Election to June 20.

We have gotten a few questions about donations. Please read this guidance from Beth Israel Lahey if you are considering donations and/or making masks! www.bilh.org/donations

As of today, the number of positive cases in Winchester is 9. The number includes people who have already recovered and are no longer under isolation. The number does not include anyone who might have contracted the virus but have not been tested or are waiting for testing. Therefore, it is not the most helpful piece of information for informing the public. The MA Department of Public Health regularly updates information about https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring

March 25, 2020

Updates from the Town Manager:

  • The state has 10 new testing labs. Total confirmed cases in Winchester is 8. Total cases statewide is 1,838. This will go up with more testing capacity.
  • Governor temporarily halts plastic bag bans and prohibits reusable bags in grocery stores.
  • Governor has extended the closure of the all schools, state’s school buildings and non-emergency day care centers through the end of April. His previous order had only closed the facilities through April 6.
  • State COVID-19 relief to municipalities and school districts bill filed to allow towns to change tax due dates, waive penalties, flexibility to local permitting authorities, electronic filing of permits, allowing more time to approve permits, expanding use of electronic signatures. I’ll update you when things move forward. Since there are many pieces to this bill, some pieces may move quicker than others.
  • Winchester just signed up with Docusign to do more electronic signatures. We expect this to be online in early April.

March 23, 2020

Governor Baker Orders All Non-Essential Businesses to Cease In Person Operation, Directs the Department of Public Health to Issue Stay at Home Advisory for Two Weeks

COVID-19 Essential Services 

March 13, 2020

Public Notice

The Town has been actively working with State and Local officials, Emergency Medical Teams, Public Safety, and the Board of Health in developing protocols for mitigating the current COVID-19 virus.  Our Health Department has been on numerous calls with the Department of Public Health, Center for Disease Control and other local Health Departments to address our concerns as well as receiving guidance from our peers.

The Town has taken the following actions in response to local and federal regulations:

Winchester Public Schools will be closed from now until March 30th

The Jenks Center will be closed from now until March 30th

The Library will be closed from this Sunday until March 30th

The Recreation Department will be closed from now until March 30th

Town Hall will have limited public hours until March 30th, Hours next week will be March 16 from 3-7pm, March 18 from Noon-4pm and March 20 from 8am-Noon.

In-person public meetings have been suspended. Town boards will post notices for REMOTE PARTICIPATION meetings.

Massachusetts 211 will be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for questions about the virus.  This is a State program that is available to all residents.  You can either dial 211 or visit www.mass211.org;

 Our Public Safety Departments have set up a Web Emergency Operations Command (EOC) center.  A Web EOC allows our Fire Chief to track particular events within the state in real time.  It also allows our Region to see what is going on here and be better prepared if we need resources;

Polls for our local election have been moved from schools to the Town Hall Auditorium; 

Absentee balloting is available!  Please visit the Town’s website for more information;

MOST SERVICES CAN BE ACCESSED/PAID ONLINE AT https://www.winchester.us/219/Online-Payments 

Please sign up for the Town’s Reverse 911 and Notifiy Me on the Town’s website at www.Winchester.us.  You will be notified of important updates from the Town via these two programs.  The Town’s social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) will also have updated information.