UPDATED: Bellingham's COVID-19 Briefing Schedule Changes on May 11
May 11, 2020 06:00AM
By Pamela Johnson
Public Heath Nurse's Update for May 11
The daily update from the Bellingham public health nurse Esther Martone on Tuesday, May 11th, revealed that COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 9 Bellingham residents. The number of Bellingham residents tested has jumped to 595; of those tested, 114 people are positive; 37 cases are active and 68 people have recovered from the virus. For more information, email [email protected]
Household Hazardous Waste Day, usually held in June, will be held on July 11 this year. More information will be forthcoming. There will be no 4th of July fireworks and festivities this year, not only because of the impossibility of social distancing that many people, but also because this event is funded by local businesses, the majority of which have been closed (or their operations limited) since the stay-at-home order went into effect.
Town Clerk's Election Update - Deadline to Register ExtendedBellingham Town Clerk Larry Sposato has announced the following information regarding Bellingham's annual town election, which has been postponed to June 9. The ballot will include one contested race for Board of Selectmen (incumbents Robert Biagi and Don Martinis along with Kelly Grant are vying for two open seats) plus uncontested races for Library Trustee, Planning Board, School Committee, and Housing Authority; also included on the ballot is an important proposition 2-1/2 Override question. If you are not already registered to vote, the last day to register for this election has been changed to May 28th. You may register online at mass.gov or by requesting a registration form from the Town Clerk's office.
In keeping with Massachusetts General Law, and recent amendments due to the pandemic, you will have three methods by which to cast your vote:
- Absentee Voting by Mail: There will be no Absentee Voting "In Office" available for this election, as the Municipal Center is currently closed to public access. Absentee Voting is available to all registered voters. For this election, no specific reason has to be given. However, an application is required and may be obtained by calling the town clerk's office (508-657-2830) or at the town's website, https://www.bellinghamma.org/sites/bellinghamma/files/uploads/absentee.ballot.pdf. Once you have printed the application and completed it, you may mail it, or scan and email it, or drop it in the silver-colored drop box opposite the front doors of the Municipal Center. Once the application has been received and accepted, you will receive a ballot by mail as soon as ballots are available. The completed ballot must be received by the Town Clerk's office by 8 p.m. on June 9th in order to be counted.
- Early Voting by Mail: There will be no Early Voting at the Municipal Center for this election, hence, this is essentially the same process as Absentee Voting by Mail. Early Voting by Mail is available to all registered voters. There is never any justification necessary for Early Voting. It is a convenience offered to voters. However, an application is required and may be obtained and returned as detailed above (see "Absentee Voting by Mail"). Again, the completed ballot must be received by the Town Clerk's office by 8 p.m. on June 9th in order to be counted.
- Voting at the Polls: Because the town is required by law to have a polling place even during these trying times, voting at the polls will be available to all registered voters who are comfortable going that route. (The election is being held on June 9th, and hopefully conditions will have improved by then.) The significant change for this election is in the abbreviated hours of operation: polls will be open between 12 and 8 p.m. The town will make every attempt to keep the environment safe, including periodic sanitizing of the polling areas. It is expected that voters will be prepared with any personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required/recommended at that time, and will observe standard 6-foot social distancing protocol. For the safety of all, poll workers will be issued PPE, and pens will either be sanitized or disposable after use. Voters are also welcome to bring their own writing implements — either black, felt-tipped pens or #2 pencils.
For more information, email Larry Sposato at [email protected]. (To expedite your question/comments, please enter "ELECTION" into the subject line). You may also call the town clerk's office at 508-657-2830.
Health Agent's UpdateBellingham Health Agent Bruce Wilson, Jr. provided an updated on the mask/facial covering requirement. According to state law, towns cannot have less stringent policies than the state does, so Bellingham's mask/facial covering policy has to be changed to align with Governor Baker's directive, which went into effect last Wednesday (May 6).
When out and about, people must have masks with them and pull them up when around other people (in Bellingham, when out and about, a mask was not required as long as social distancing and a less-than-10 minute length of interaction was observed). Another change concerns the age at which youngsters must wear facial covering: Baker's requires parents to provide masks to all children from age 2, whereas Bellingham's policy started at age 5. Lastly, the fine imposed by the Baker administration for non-compliance is $300; since Bellingham's fine was set at $100, that will also now have to be changed to comply with the state fine.
Why Do I Need to Wear a Mask?
The need to wear a mask is crucial in fighting the spread of COVID-19. Many people have the virus but do not have any symptoms; wearing a mask keeps these individuals from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. It also somewhat protects individuals wearing the mask from inhaling droplets that may contain the virus. Hand-washing is still of primary importance, as is social distancing--a mask alone is not enough.
Bellingham Nutrition Team/Hockomock YMCA Update
According to Bellingham Public School Nutrition Director Liz Bell, as of mid-March, families currently qualified for free and reduced meals are able to pick up one breakfast and lunch per district student until further notice. (Drive through service is available at the side cafeteria entrance of Bellingham Memorial School, 130 Blackstone Street.
Now, through a partnership with the Bellingham Public Schools, the Hockomock Area YMCA is expanding its Food Access Initiative by offering free meals to all children in all communities, ages 18 and under, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Children will receive breakfast and lunch in grab-and-go format prepared by the Bellingham Nutrition Team. Recipients will additionally be given meals for the following day, since the program is running every other day during the work week. On Fridays, food will be provided to cover breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Residents age 18 and under are encouraged to come to Bellingham Middle School, located at 130 Blackstone Street in Bellingham, on the days and during the times indicated above. According to Bell, 30% of families have been approved for free/reduced rate lunches, which is not reflected in the number of meals that have been picked up. She encourages families to participate in this program; no advanced sign up or paperwork is required to receive the grab-and-go meals.
Bell also directs residents to the Bellingham program's Facebook page (Bellingham Public Schools Nutrition and Wellness) for the most up-to-date information, or to contact her at mailto:[email protected] with specific questions. Questions may also be directed to Bell's Hockomock YMCA counterpart, Marykate Bergen, at [email protected].
For more information on child care services and food distribution available from the YMCA during these times, please visit www.hockymca.org. The Hockomock Area YMCA is proud to be working with school nutrition departments and community partners to ensure that children and families have meals when schools are closed. This institution is an equal opportunity employer.
Food Donation Locations:
- Bellingham Memorial School, 130 Blackstone Street (at corner of So. Main St./Rte. 126)
- ConnectEd & Inspired (formerly Wenger's Farm), 1048 South Main Street/Rte. 126, across from Bellingham Memorial School; info: www.connectedandinspired.org or call (781) 480-1375.
- Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, St. Blaise Church, 1158 So. Main St., Rte. 126; Tel: 508-966-1258.
- Hockomock YMCA Bernon Family Branch, 45 Forge Hill Rd, Franklin; Tel: 508-528-8708
Spiritual Health Update
Bellingham Pastor Heather Kempskie of the New England Chapel also appeared on the Tuesday, May 5th, update. She discussed the need that many people may have for spiritual support in these troubling and uncertain times. The New England Chapel is located in Franklin, and currently holds a virtual service every Sunday. Throughout the month of May, they are also holding discussions on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. called NEC Cafe, featuring three "imperfect people who happen to be pastors," says Kempskie. For more information on the cafes and/or virtual services, visit www.newenglandchapel.org.