There are new restrictions on businesses, workers and the public as Haverhill’s Board of Health tightened standards Monday afternoon to control the spread of COVID-19.
The actions, effective at midnight tonight, paved the way for an executive order from Mayor James J. Fiorentini and the Board. Health Board. Members, however, resisted forcing employees and the public to wear fabric masks, but strongly encouraged it. Member Romie N. Mundy II said he doesn’t want to prevent someone from being able to buy groceries, for example.
“We can all agree we think people should be wearing masks. I just want to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt somebody unintentionally,” he said.
Under the order, businesses must provide adequate supplies and time for employees to wash, regularly sanitize all surfaces, limit the number of staff and customers to ensure at least six feet of space between people, prohibit loitering and other gatherings and send home workers that are ill. New rules on employees require they stay home if sick and “self-certify” they have no virus symptoms. The Board recommended employees and the public wear a fabric mask, scarf or bandana over mouths and noses, but stopped short of requiring it. The executive order advises the public to leave surgical masks or N-95 respirators for medical professionals and first responders.
Health Board Chairman Peter Carbone led efforts to recommend actions rather than require them since some people may be coming from out of town or otherwise be unaware of the rules.
“The biggest issue I have is, again, every city and town is making their own rules. One of the things the governor had asked for last week at one of his presentations was that we not all make our own rules,” Carbone said.
Member Alexander Matolcsy also expressed misgivings about forcing people to wear masks, saying he fears contamination from unwashed material.
In the form of a resolution, Fiorentini justified the actions because of Haverhill’s population, density and location of a large number of “essential” businesses.
In the form of a resolution, Fiorentini justified the actions because of Haverhill’s population, density and location of a large number of “essential” businesses. The mayor told members during the remote meeting that Haverhill now has 201 confirmed COVID-19 cases. He added later there have been two deaths and—what he called his “greatest fear”—26 nursing home residents are infected.
Other rules prohibit ice cream trucks and reinforce requirements that grocery stores limit the number of customers to 40% of its permitted occupancy limit, use floor markings and/or signage to maintain distances between people, designate and employee to enforce the rules and require sick workers to leave work and not return until cleared by a medical professional.
Health and Inspectional Services Director Richard MacDonald noted ice cream shops may remain open, but he has had to remind businesses to keep people from congregating.
Health Board members decided not to require employers to use infrared thermometers or other means to determine if employees have fevers.