Select Board declares town emergency due to coronavirus

Mar 18, 2020

With five confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bristol County, the Dartmouth Select Board declared an emergency in the town of Dartmouth at a special meeting on March 18 due to the global pandemic.

As of March 18, positive cases of Covid-19 — an illness caused by a new and extremely contagious coronavirus — have reached 256 in Massachusetts.

The declaration of emergency gives the town more flexibility in procuring and allocating resources and emergency funds.

It is effective immediately and will remain in effect until the Select Board gives notice that the emergency no longer exists.

This action is being taken proactively, not in response to any confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 in the community,” said Select Board chair Stanley Mickelson as he read the declaration into the record. The ongoing transmission of Covid-19 can be expected to greatly impact the health and welfare of residents and employees of the town of Dartmouth.” 

The state of emergency was passed unanimously by the board.

As Town Hall remains closed to the public, the meeting was broadcast live on Dartmouth Community TV as well as Youtube Live.

According to Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes, the town is currently discussing remote access options with DCTV for all town meetings.

He noted in an update on the town’s coronavirus strategy that all non-essential board and committee meetings have been cancelled until April 30, while public hearings are limited to only those required by law or necessary to maintain essential government functions.

MacInnes said that officials have created an incident command team led by Director of Public Health Chris Michaud. The team will hold its first meeting tomorrow morning.

Officials are also developing a communications plan and updating the town’s continuity of operations plan to maintain essential functions and services during a potential outbreak.

“We want to maintain providing essential services to the public, that is vital,” MacInnes noted. “We want to develop plans and contingency plans in case this issue were to progress and we had to act. We’re identifying essential staff that need to be available, and we’re also evaluating teaming of staff. If an outbreak were to worsen, we may have to alternate staff in the office and out of the office so we can continue to maintain services.”

“I was particularly impressed by the professionalism and the amount of know-how and knowledge and dedication in that room,” said board member David Tatelbaum of a meeting of department heads yesterday. “I think we’re in really good hands.”

Board member John Haran said, “I feel very comfortable knowing that Chris Michaud is leading the Board of Health,” before adding that the board might consider asking former civil defense adviser Ed Pimental to come out of retirement to lend a hand.

Mickelson added that the town will try to keep the public updated with frequent messages, naming Dartmouth Police Detective Kyle Costa and Michaud as point people to contact for information.

“We will not leave you in the dark. We’re here for you,” said Mickelson, addressing Dartmouth residents directly. “This is a momentous time for the town and our country.”

Information on Covid-19 is available through a bright red banner on the town’s website.

Anyone with further questions can contact the Board of Health at (508) 910-1844, Monday-Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to speak with someone directly, or leave a message at the same number after hours.