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Bellingham Moves to Lower Covid-19 Risk Category

Nov 09, 2020 12:28PM ● By Pamela Johnson
Because of a change in the state's formula for calculating where a town stands as related to Covid-19 risk, Bellingham has moved from being a "red" community to being a "yellow" one on the state map, with "green" of course being the ultimate goal. This information was shared at the town's Covid-19 update which was hosted by Selectboard Chair and Vice-Chair Mike Connor and Cindy McNulty respectively. (The revived briefings are now being held on Monday mornings at 10 AM.)

The change is significant in that it loosens some of the restrictions on businesses; however, at the same time, Governor Baker has issued new guidelines regarding the pandemic. Town Planner Jim Kupfer was present at the update and shared the four new guidelines. (The following contains information both shared by Kupfer and obtained from

1.  GATHERINGS: Governor's COVID-19 Order #54 (issued November 2, 2020): Reduced gathering size limit for gatherings at private residences: indoor gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings at private residences are limited to 25 people. The limit on gatherings held in public spaces and at event venues remains the same. Requires that all gatherings (regardless of size or location) must end and disperse by 9:30 PM.

This order also requires that organizers of gatherings report known positive COVID-19 cases to the local health department in that community and requires organizers to cooperate with contact tracing. The gatherings order authorizes continued enforcement by local health and police departments and specifies that fines for violating the gathering order will be $500 for each person above the limit at a particular gathering.

2.  MASKS: Governor's COVID-19 Order #55 (issued November 2, 2020): Revised order requiring all persons to wear face-coverings in all public places, even where they are able to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Allows for an exception for residents who cannot wear a face-covering due to a medical or disabling condition, but allows employers to require employees to provide proof of such a condition. Allows schools to require that students participating in in-person learning provide proof of such a medical or disabling condition.

3.  BUSINESSES: Governor's COVID-19 Order #56 (issued November 6, 2020): revised provisions for Phase III reopening in municipalities with reduced incidence of COVID-19 infection and Governor's COVID-19 Order #53 (issued November 2, 2020) requires the early closure of certain businesses and activities each night at 9:30 PM. The 9:30 PM closure requirement is aligned with the Stay At Home Advisory (residents are advised to stay home between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM) and together the two new initiatives are designed to further limit activities that could lead to COVID-19 transmission. (Businesses may not reopen before 5:30 AM.) While restaurants must close for seated guests, they may still provide takeout--food only, no alcohol.)

More detailed information on which businesses fit into each reopening phase may be found at

4. RISK MAP: The formula for calculating a communities Covid-19 risk has been changed as follows: communities (such as Bellingham) with a population of 10 to 50K with less than or equal to 10 total cases are in the gray zone; those communities with less than 10 average cases per 100K and greater than 10 total cases is in the green zone; communities (such as Bellingham) with equal to or less than 10 average cases per 100K OR an equal to or greater than 5% positivity rate are in the yellow zone; lastly, communities with equal to or greater than 10 average cases per 100K AND an equal to or greater than 5% positivity rate are in the red zone.

Regarding schools, Superintendent of Schools Peter Marano reported that things are going well, with only a small uptick in the number of cases. (It should be noted here that the number of cases in Bellingham increased from 26 active and 1 probable to 33 active and 1 probable in one day--from Nov. 9 when this article was originally written & posted to Nov. 10.)  Marano indicated that, although the Governor wants to get kids back in school, Bellingham will be adhering to the 6-foot distancing requirement for the time being and keeping a vigilant eye on the numbers (even though the state guidelines allow anywhere from 3 to 6 feet in distancing). He indicated that more information was forthcoming in the following days and that he would report new information at next week's briefing.

The same was the case for winter sports. The newer guidelines are now being reviewed and more information will be shared at the next briefing.

The bottom line message, as stated by McNulty and reinforced by Connor is "use common sense." Following the guidelines will keep the number of new Covid-19 cases down, and help to keep businesses open that may otherwise have to close permanently, which is to the detriment of every Bellingham resident.




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