At their April 1 meeting, the Select Board heard updates on the town’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, postponed Town Meeting due to the constraints of the pandemic, and discussed the organization of the Select Board moving forward.
Covid-19 Response Update
Town Manager Sarah Stanton reported on the response effort of the town to mitigate the impact of the virus. She covered current local status, the Town’s response, specific areas of response, common questions from townspeople, and town operations.
As of April 1, there were 11 confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 in Bedford. In addition, there are two confirmed cases at Hanscom AFB. Stanton, however, highlighted that these totals are an understatement of the true representation of cases since likely affected younger individuals are being advised to remain at home and are not being tested.
As of April 1, there were 1,340 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Middlesex County, the highest in the Commonwealth. In total, Massachusetts has confirmed 6,620 cases across the Commonwealth. Positive Covid-19 cases are expected to increase as testing becomes expanded.
Stanton spoke enthusiastically about the Town’s response to the pandemic. Bedford has utilized public health nurses, including those employed by the schools, to assist in monitoring cases. They have also developed online resources for the town’s Covid-19 response: daily updates to inform residents via website, social media, and emails.
Town and school facilities including playgrounds, playing fields, and parks remain closed to the public as declared by the Board of Health.
The Town has also made it a goal to reduce the impact that the pandemic has on economic development. The Office of Economic Development has been in contact with small businesses as well as Bedford’s larger employers to assist in any way possible. The Town also developed and launched www.BedfordTakeOut.com to assist food establishments during the transition to take-out service only.
Specific Areas of Response
The Town of Bedford has made it a specific goal to monitor the following:
- Food security
- Bedford’s senior residents
- Group homes, the Bedford VA, and the Bedford Housing Authority
- Essential retail, such as groceries/pharmacies/retailers,
- Economic development recovery and revitalization,
- Communication with healthcare providers, such as Lahey Hospital and Emerson Hospital; major employers; public school families; regional neighbors, local legislators, Baker administration, regional planning agency, federal partners, and community stakeholders.
Stanton addressed common questions that community members have asked the town.
First, she addressed the status of Town Meeting as many had communicated their interest. Stanton explained that according to the federal guidelines hosting a gathering larger than 10 individuals is prohibited. Town Moderator Cathy Cordes raised the possibility to hold Annual Town Meeting outside when the stay at home order is lifted.
Another question frequently asked was why are individuals remaining home? Stanton stressed the importance of quarantining to mitigate the risk of exposure to the senior population, along with those who have preexisting conditions.
Stanton discussed another frequent topic of inquiry about which businesses are “essential” and who determines that list. She explained that the businesses deemed essential are determined by Governor Baker and his administration.
Due to Covid-19’s economic impact on many families, multiple requests for help in providing food for families have been received. Stanton stressed the work that the town has done, along with support from the Greater Boston Food Bank, in the establishment of the food bank at JGMS. More can be read about utilizing the food bank here.
Similarly, many business owners have felt the economic impact of Covid-19 on their livelihood and have reached out to the town for help. Stanton explained that there are many resources at the Federal and State level to assist with such issues, like the Federal Stimulus CARES act.
Residents have also contacted the town over opportunities to volunteer. However, due to the restrictions and concern of the virus spreading further, Stanton encouraged individuals to participate in less formal forms of volunteering, like checking in with your neighbors.
Despite the closure of Town Hall, Stanton stressed that all departments are available with town employees are working remotely. However, Departments that conduct activities pertaining to code enforcement, health, and community safety are on-going. She explained that the town hosts twice-a-week senior staff meetings, along with entire town staff meetings for updates and questions.
The Select Board unanimously voted to postpone Town Meeting for an additional 30 days, to Monday, May 4.
Reorganization of the Select Board
The newly renamed Select Board reorganized to establish leadership roles for the upcoming term.
The Select Board voted newly reelected member Ed Pierce to serve as Chair, with Fleischman as Clerk for the coming year.
The next meeting of the Select Board is April 15.