Fiorentini Names Medical Advisory Panel to Guide School Reopenings, Related Pandemic Matters

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini has named a blue-ribbon committee to advise the city and, particularly, the schools on COVID-19-related reopening concerns. Besides the initial focus on school reopenings, the mayor said, the Medical Advisory Panel will recommend approaches to expanding virus testing, preparations in case of a second wave of the coronavirus, public outreach on face mask policy and a unified policy for city employees if one becomes ill or is exposed to illness. “Whatever we do, it has to be safe,” Fiorentini said in a statement. He added the city will primarily rely upon the state for guidance, but “this local panel can also assist us with strictly local issues.”

Those appointed are Haverhill Board of Health Chairman Romie Mundy, Health Board member Alexander Matolcsy, school physician John Maddox, Director of Health and Nursing Services Katie Vozeolas, Public Health Nurse Mary Connolly and Pentucket Medical’s Chief Physician Executive Bomba Gerrett. While the medical panel has no regulatory authority, the administration noted, two members also serve on the Board of Health which may set policy.

Haverhill School Committee Hears Reopening Challenges, Nationwide Bus Shortage

The Department of Education has begun providing guidance on how to reopen schools in September, but School Superintendent Margaret Marotta says there are still many questions to be answered. Marotta told the School Committee last night that she has received guidelines on topics ranging from health and safety measures, facilities and HVAC systems to cleaning protocols and transportation issues. “There’s a whole bunch of information that is coming to us very quickly and each of these documents are many, many, many pages long and sometimes contradict each other. So, we’re kind of sorting through all that to try to determine what our next steps are,” she said. Marotta admits, despite these guidelines, it is still unclear what the new school year will actually look like—in-school education, remote learning or a combination of both.

Mayor Weighs in on Haverhill School Reopening Plans; Highlights Concerns Like 10-Pupil Bus Limit

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini Thursday weighed in on the city’s school reopening plans, saying “safety” is the top priority and noting a 10-student limit on school buses as an obstacle. In a video posted on social media Thursday afternoon, the chairman of the School Committee echoed comments school Superintendent Margaret Marotta made over WHAV this week. “We don’t know yet if the plan will be remote, if it will be some hybrid of remote and in classroom, that it will be all in classroom, and that’s what we’re going to be working on,” he said. The mayor said the school administration recognizes there are special needs students who cannot go back to school and some parents who aren’t comfortable sending their children back into the classroom. The mayor outlined some of the questions that must be answered while assembling a plan.

Rep. Campbell to Co-Chair Inquiry into Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Where 100 Died from COVID-19

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell is co-chairing a special joint oversight committee to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home that has taken 100 lives. The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate adopted an order earlier this month establishing the committee which will recommend legislative changes to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. The committee is tasked with conducting public hearings and witness examination to review topics including the structure and leadership at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home; quality of care provided; pandemic response by leadership and staff; communications on the local, state, and federal levels associated with the outbreak; and results of any state and federal investigations. Campbell, chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, said the committee will provide a report to the legislature no later than March 31, next year, along with drafts of legislation necessary to carry out the committee’s recommendations. Campbell also secured $50,000 for the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation’s Food4Vets program within a $1.1 billion spending bill passed by the House to cover COVID-19 expenses that will be reimbursed by the federal government.

While State Plans for Students to Return to Classes, Educators and Haverhill Schools to Bargain Details

Reaction from parents was mixed last week when Haverhill’s school superintendent said the state is leaning toward a full return of students to classrooms this fall, but the Haverhill Education Association says more talks are necessary. Union President Anthony J. Parolisi tells WHAV educators submitted a demand to bargain over reopening plans and Superintendent Margaret Marotta agreed Friday. Parolisi explains what’s a stake. “The conditions for reopening are going to have a significant impact on our members schedules, their daily responsibilities, the impact of being required to wear personal protective equipment—who’s going to provide that. There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” he says.

Haverhill Public Library Reopens Today By Appointment; Masks Are Required for Entrance

The Haverhill Public Library is reopening to the public today with restrictions. The library is now open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for those making appointments by telephone in advance. Appointments will last a maximum of 45 minutes. Walkups will be accommodated if possible. The Childrens’ Room will not be open due to safety concerns, but a small browsing collection of youth services materials is available on the first floor.

Senate Passes DiZoglio Bill to Allow Mixed Drinks to be Sold With Takeout During Pandemic

The Massachusetts Senate passed legislation Friday to allow mixed alcoholic drinks to be sold with takeout and delivery orders in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 emergency. State Sen. Diana DiZoglio filed the bill that would make Massachusetts the latest state to permit the sale of mixed drinks with takeout and delivery. More than 34 other states, including Maine and Rhode Island, have already adopted such measures. DiZoglio said, “While the legislature does not have a say in the reopening plan during this continued state of emergency, we still have an obligation to use every legislative tool we have to help those that are struggling due to the pandemic.”

She asked that Gov. Charlie Baker sign the legislation, which was passed earlier by the House,  as soon as possible. Earlier this year, beer and wine sales were permitted to be sold with takeout and delivery orders but mixed drinks were not included.

Haverhill Superintendent Marotta Says All Students Return This Fall Under Current Guidance

School classrooms in Haverhill will look different this fall, but not as unusual as officials first feared. Haverhill Superintendent Margaret Marotta, a guest Wednesday on WHAV’s morning program, says it appears all students can return at once, according to updated guidance from the Department of Education. “Providing nothing changes, or gets worse, at this point we’re planning for a sort of a full socially distance return to the school in the fall. So, for us, that’s meant a lot of work. Moving around desks, taking out desks, checking all the windows in all the buildings to make sure all the windows work because they’re encouraging the flow of fresh air.