After Council Approves, Police Set to Enforce Rule Against 10 or More Gathering in Public

Haverhill City Council. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in any public area. The ordinance, which gives police enforcement authority, mirrors state guidelines issued by Gov. Charlie Baker on March 23.

In submitting the proposal, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said although it seems most people are practicing safe social distancing, police have told him they have tried to break up groups of people, but lack enforcement power. The mayor initially proposed the ban apply to groups of five or more unless they were blood related.

“I thought about this earlier today and I would recommend that we change this—I spoke to the Council president earlier—from 10 people to five unrelated people. Six family members going down the street is not a problem but 10 people is so I would recommend that we change that,” Fiorentini proposed.

Most councilors didn’t agree the change was necessary though. Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien was one of them.

“At first I thought that we should maybe look at doing the five but I feel that might be a little pre-emptive. I think that leaving it at 10 and doing what the rest of the state is doing is probably enough,” she said.

O’Brien said it would also be difficult to prove who was actually related and who was not.

Councilor Timothy J. Jordan agreed, saying he had spoken with the police who told him the governor’s recommendation was probably good enough. “I spoke with Deputy Chief (Anthony) Haugh today. He expressed concern about making that change, specifically citing that the governor’s order is for 10 or more and he was concerned about trying to supersede the governor’s recommendation.”

Because the ordinance was submitted with an emergency preamble, it takes effect immediately and applies to gatherings at all city parks, playgrounds and school grounds. It carries fines of $50 for first offenders up to $300 for multiple offenders. The mayor said the ordinance expires when the public health emergency expires.

As of yesterday, Haverhill has seen 104 cases of COVID-19. Of those, 31 have recovered and four or five have required hospitalization. To date the city has seen no deaths as a result of the disease.

Comments are closed.