Health officials concerned with potential Black Friday Covid spread

Nov 12, 2020

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, which means another big day will quickly follow: Black Friday.

At a Nov. 12 meeting, Board of Health officials expressed their concerns about how businesses will deal with a plethora of customers standing in long lines amid a pandemic.

The Select Board has already received applications from businesses to open their doors early on Nov. 27, something Public Health Director Chris Michaud said would be addressed at their next meeting on Nov. 23. 

Health board member Lynne Brodeur noted that she was “very disappointed” in the Select Board for waiting to take action as the day of deals approaches. She said that her main issue was with stores potentially not having enough staffing to deal with long lines of people waiting for multiple hours.

“This is a recipe for disaster,” Brodeur said. “Public health is at stake here and I don’t want to see it swept under the rug for a 99 dollar TV — it’s just not worth it.”

Michaud said that there were only three Black Friday applications, although he noted that one of the businesses did request to open its doors at 1 a.m. on Black Friday — which he called  “concerning.” 

“A 1 a.m. opening means people will be lining up on Thanksgiving night and there will be no one on that premises to police that line to make sure people are adhering to the new face mask order,” he said. 

“You won’t see me in line, I can tell you that,” Brodeur said.

At the same meeting, the board voted to draft a letter of recommendation to have Town Hall operate on a hybrid schedule similar to the town’s public schools — with half the staff in one day as the others work from home.

Earlier in the day, officials announced Town Hall would be closed through Wednesday, Nov. 18 out of “an abundance of caution for health and safety.”  

“I’m just afraid that one case or exposure will wipe out our whole department,” Brodeur said.

The decisions come as coronavirus cases surge all across the country. On Nov. 6, the Board of Health reported 61 new cases in town, the highest number since the 78 cases reported at the worst of the spring surge in May.

Based on current trends, Michaud said, the town is “on track to hit 100 this week.”

“Every two weeks it seems like we’re doubling,” he added. “That’s concerning.” 

Hawthorn Medical Associates’ Dr. Christian Pope, the board’s volunteer physician, noted that hospitals all over the South Coast are “seeing an upward trend” with the amount of cases coming into emergency rooms.

“The trend is there — and the current track we’re on is not a good one,” he said.

Pope added that if the pandemic is not curtailed as soon as possible, South Coast hospitals would likely be as overwhelmed as when coronavirus first struck.

“We cannot tolerate this burden again,” he said.