Wellesley COVID-19 update: Mandatory mask order being discussed; relief fund doles out $12,800; MLP a mask magnet

fells masks
Masked shoppers at Fells Market

The state’s shutdown of nonessential services at brick-and-mortar locations has been extended to May 18 in light of COVID-19 concerns, but with the possibility that rules might be relaxed from there, Wellesley officials are stepping up discussions about what that might look like locally. The town currently has 174 COVID-19 cases, with a couple of spikes last week following testing at Wellesley long-term care facilities.

The Board of Health and Board of Selectmen have an emergency meeting slated for Friday, May 1 during which they plan to discuss and vote on a mandatory mask order. The mandatory part will likely apply mainly to businesses, but perhaps also to residents who are entering a business or engage in other such situations.

Town officials have been keeping a close eye on what neighboring communities, like Needham, are doing. Needham just issued a public health emergency order mandating face coverings in specific situations come May 1. Needham stresses that residents should not exact vigilante justice on one another:

Nothing in this order is intended to encourage residents to act as an enforcement authority for the Town of Needham. Residents should not take it upon themselves to approach people in violation of this order. Residents are urged to focus solely on their personal and family compliance with this order.

So shaming will be left for local Facebook groups…

As for Wellesley, don’t expect the town to sic cops on those without face coverings, but officials could come down on businesses not adhering to new rules. It gets a lot dicier when dealing with residents, so the town will be careful regarding whether it issues mandates, advisories, guidance or recommendations. Legal will have a say on that. There’s still plenty of debate over how effective makeshift face coverings even are as well as concerns about improper use of more sophisticated face masks, such as by those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Don’t be surprised if more changes to public spaces are raised, especially at places like the RDF where mask use is still spotty. There’s been talk of steering runners off the increasingly crowded Brook Path (hey, we were there first!) and onto sidewalks (look both ways if you’re exiting buildings).

Relief fund doles out $12,800

The new Wellesley COVID-19 Relief Fund has awarded $12,800 in its first round of grant funding to local non-profits.

The initial grants are being awarded to:

• Elizabeth Seton Residence Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, which will buy iPads to enable residents in the long-term care facility to visually connect with their loved ones.

•  Wellesley Fire Department, Wellesley Health Department, and Wellesley Council on Aging, to buy  2,000 KN95 masks for distribution to senior citizens and medically vulnerable residents.

• Wellesley Service League, to support 50-75 Wellesley families in public housing and throughout Town who are struggling with the at-home and online learning needs of their school-aged children. Grant money will provide items such as: kits and school supplies for remote learning; arts and crafts supplies; and games and pizza lunch every other Friday through the remainder of the school year.

•  Wellesley Health Department, Wellesley Council on Aging, and Wellesley Housing Authority, to supply 60 meals from Wellesley restaurants per week (including delivery) for COVID-19 affected residents identified by town social services and nursing staff. So, while the fund is focused on directing the monies to non-profits, for-profits can also benefit depending on the grant proposal. Has us thinking about how the fund might support a certain online news outfit that’s working overtime these days.

The Wellesley COVID-19 Relief Fund was established with an initial gift of $10,000 from the Community Fund for Wellesley, and has grown to more than $20,000 via additional donations. More grants will be issued on a rolling basis.

MLP a mask magnet

Credit Wellesley Municipal Light Plant Director Don Newell for being on his mask game.  He mentioned at this week’s MLP board meeting that he snagged 200 masks for staff online via Walmart recently after getting shut out on Amazon.

Plus, the MLP has ordered a couple pallets’ worth of N95 masks from an existing vendor for future use by the MLP and DPW, he said.

Bonus: COVID-19 simulator from Mass General Hospital and friends

We’re all inundated with COVID-19 data, though this new simulator from Mass General and partners caught my eye. It envisions the COVID-19 scene under different levels of intervention.

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