By Max Bowenemail@example.com
Amidst the ever-changing story that is the current COVID-19 pandemic, North Attleborough officials are working to ensure the town is ready for what comes next.
At present, the town has four confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Town Manager Michael Borg, and 24 in Bristol County. He said there are three additional suspected positive cases, but added that the town is between 24 and 48 hours behind getting this information.
“If you have a positive diagnosis, contact the health director to account for that,” said Borg at the March 23 Town Council meeting, which was held remotely. “I believe the only option left is to stay at home. As we watch how this is developing, we will provide information continually.”
As with Monday’s meeting, other boards and committees are opting to go with the remote setup. Members join via conference call, which the public can also do. For more information on which meetings will be held and which will be postponed, visit the town web site. Councilor Justin Pare, who also sits on the Finance Subcommittee, said last week’s meeting was postponed, but this Wednesday, a virtual meeting would be held to discuss alternative budget scenarios.
“We need to start planning that taxes and State Aid might not be what we planned,” he said. “As we go through this emergency period, we’re willing to meet as much as we need to.”
On Tuesday, the North Nurses Coronavirus Info Line was established, and the public can call 508-699-2404 with their questions. This number has four lines, so please call back if you do not hear from one of the nurses immediately.
Earlier this week, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered the shutdown of all non-essential businesses in the state to help stop the spread of the virus. Borg said he is working with Economic Development Director Lyle Pirnie on a plan to help the town’s businesses once the crisis has passed. The town has already posted information on loans available to small businesses.
“We will plan for what happens next after the emergency ends,” said Borg. “It’s reasonable to believe this will end soon, one day, and we will need a plan to recover.”
Many on the council offered their words of encouragement or information for the public. Council President Keith Lapointe said he was impressed with the way the staff stepped up to handle the remote meetings. He offered thanks to Health Director Anne Marie Fleming, who has been working long hours to answer questions.
“Huge thank you to the staff running the town,” said Lapointe. “Everybody has just pulled together. Times like this show the character of the community.”
Pare added that the YMCA locations have been bagging food for families and made 2,200 to-go lunches. He said that they plan to continue this after the crisis ends. Julie Boyce thanked the school nutrition program, which has been providing meals, as has First Baptist Church and the Attleboro Interfaith Collective. Michael Lennox said that these and other announcements have been a big help and that the town would get through this.
“Gratitude to those observing social distancing,” he said. “The importance of that can’t be understated.”
Darius Gregrory said that what is happening now is unprecedented, and that everyone needs to make conscious decisions, which includes washing hands often and practicing social distancing. John Simmons said that residents should call Town Hall with any questions, that rumors and fear are a bad mix, a sentiment echoed by Joann Cathcart.
“It’s so important that people get the help they need,” said Cathcart. “None of us have ever seen anything like this, ever. Everyone needs to keep their spirits up.”