With the pandemic waning, the Board of Health at its meeting Monday night discussed moving away from its focus on COVID-19 and toward developing a strategic plan that will reflect Hopkinton’s overall health objectives.
Health Department Director Shaun McAuliffe said he would be working with Board of Health Chair Lisa Whittemore and Public Health Nurse Simone Carter as well as other town leaders and an outside consultant to draft the policy.
“As I’ve stated, one of the beauties of public health is that it allows us to do just about anything,” he said. “But the challenge is really focusing on what the community needs are, what the board’s priorities are, and making sure all of that is aligned with the Town Manager’s Office and Select Board.”
He added that a public survey about priorities may be conducted.
Whittemore said McAuliffe and Carter will be formulating “the pillars of the strategy” that will go before the board for input. The Health Department “will flesh out all the meat of that strategy” and provide data so that progress can be monitored and resources can be directed appropriately. She hoped this would be ready for the board meeting on Oct. 24.
One point she brought up was the question of whether the Health Department should be providing direct health services. She said the strategic plan will be an ongoing item on future agendas so that members can determine the board’s level of involvement on various aspects of the policy.
“Now that we’re emerging [from the pandemic], we have the time and ability to start focusing more on our core responsibilities,” McAuliffe said later in the meeting. “We’ll be redefining all of our roles as they pertain to the funding opportunities, the grant writing responsibilities — basically all the stuff that COVID has taken away from us.”
Winter Street noise complaints addressed
McAuliffe updated the board on noise complaints raised by several residents at last month’s meeting coming from 222 Winter Street, the site of Monster Tree Service. He noted the owner, Brendon Bullen, recently appeared before the Board of Appeals, where his appeal was denied. At the previous meeting, McAuliffe noted that he personally witnessed trucks idling and wood chipping activity that went beyond the allowed neighborhood decibel level.
“I’m happy to report that we haven’t had any noise complaints or any issues to our department for about two weeks now,” he said.
In response to this issue, McAuliffe explained that he is working on drafting a noise ordinance, using guidelines from the Department of Environmental Protection as a reference but tailoring it for Hopkinton.
“The DEP’s regulation has a very broad and punitive set of penalties associated with it,” he noted. “What we’re looking to do is put a bit of structure around that portion of the regulation.
Whittemore said the draft regulations would have to go before the board in an open public hearing for review before advancing to the Select Board for approval.
COVID-19 data, bivalent vaccine information presented
Carter reported that the current reported town COVID-19 case count is 27.
Said Carter: “But that does not reflect the actual case count, as we know. Not even close.”
The Health Department has updated its COVID-19 guidelines to reflect recent updates on the state and national levels, she noted. It will continue to provide information, education and resources. The schools and emergency responders will be provided with more than 10,000 face coverings and personal protective equipment supplies.
The new bivalent vaccine, which was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sept. 1 to combat the new virus strains, is on back order. The Moderna version, which will be available for people over age 18, is expected to arrive this week.
She added that the town is limited in the amount of the Pfizer vaccine it can order, and it is primarily used in pediatricians’ offices for children aged 12 and over. The original series of vaccines no longer can be given out as booster shots except to those ages 5-11.
The department is willing to help pediatricians and offer standup clinics in the hopes of increasing vaccination rates.
Flu clinics scheduled
As fall approaches, four flu clinics have been arranged that will be targeted toward different populations. The first one, geared toward elderly residents, will be a drive-through clinic on Sept. 30 that will offer both the high- and low-dose versions. For parents and kids, there will be a drive-through clinic on Oct. 5 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the middle school. Emergency personnel and town employees will have a clinic on Oct. 7, while the Oct. 14 clinic will be open to the public but geared toward teachers.
Once the Moderna vaccine arrives, Carter said she will start offering smaller vaccine clinics in Town Hall from 4-6 p.m. because the vaccines will be more widely available at pharmacies than in the past.
Health Fair Saturday
The department is hosting its Community Health Fair this Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on the Town Common. There will be a variety of health vendors participating. Later in the afternoon, Hopkinton Family Day will take place on the field behind the middle school. Carter suggested that next year an effort can be made to link the events to provide “one-stop shopping.”
“We’re providing an opportunity for people to basically picnic and mingle with our vendors,” McAuliffe added, noting there will be a bounce house for kids. “It’s a good day just to get out.”