Scituate focused on protecting elderly during coronavirus

Scituate focused on protecting elderly during coronavirus

Distance learning program also in the works

SCITUATE – Scituate Emergency Management Agency Director John Robinson backed the town’s state of emergency announced Monday, saying the most important thing for the town is to protect its vulnerable elderly population.

Robinson spoke during the March 12 Town Council meeting, and said the town is following guidance from state and federal agencies.

“Applying that information to our demographic here in Scituate, we found the most important step is to first protect our most vulnerable, and that would be the elderly,” he said.

On March 10, Robinson and Scituate Senior Services Director Dina Elhelw closed the senior center to the public for two weeks.

At this time, no members of the Scituate community have been directly hit with the virus, Elhelw said.

Elhelw said the decision to close the center was not made lightly, and she believes social distancing seniors is the best way to reduce exposure to the high-risk population. The Department of Health reported a heightened state of alert for people age 60 or older after looking at mortality rates in the China outbreak.

To continue care for seniors, Senior Services is purchasing, packaging and delivering meals to elderly residents throughout town and will continue to do so. Boxed meals will be provided to any seniors aged 60 years or older who request a meal, which includes a sandwich, bag of chips, fruit, vegetable, water and a milk carton.

Meals are available on-site and delivered by Meals on Wheels. Double meals are available for delivery for home-bound clients, Elhelw said.

Senior Center staff will operate phone lines to answer questions and concerns and serve as a resource for public information during the closure, as well as making wellness calls, visits, and meal deliveries.

Contact Senior Services at 401-647-2662, or the COVID-19 Hotline at 401-222-8022.

The Senior Center will also undergo a deep cleaning.

Robinson said the student population is the least affected by the virus, showing mild flu symptoms. Gov. Gina Raimondo called for April vacation to happen early, from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20.

During these days, school districts are preparing for likely distance learning, according to Supt. Carol Blanchette. She said the School Department began planning last Friday, March 13.

The idea is to create plans that make sense for everyone, which is difficult in a district where some students have more access to the internet than others.

With no end in sight, Blanchette said the district is doing its best to keep ahead. She said whether Scituate students will use distance learning for a week or a month, the district is keeping their well-being and education first.

“We have to do what is right for students’ health and safety,” she said.

Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been called in Scituate to activate the town’s disaster emergency plan in response to the COVID-19 virus, thereby suspending all non-essential government meetings.

The Town Council scheduled an informational meeting today, Thursday, March 19, starting at 9 a.m. at Town Hall, 195 Danielson Pike, to discuss the state of emergency. The town strongly discourages public attendance, and will live-stream the meeting online at www.scituateri.org .

The idea is to be as prepared for the virus before it gets to Scituate to lessen its impact on the community.

The state of emergency will remain in effect until April 30 unless revoked earlier. Town Council President James Brady said the state recommended making the call.

“It gives us guidance and flexibility to operate differently,” he said.

The order activates the town’s emergency operations, including all emergency response plans, policies and agreement and establishes mobile support units.

The state of emergency revokes all entertainment licenses and special event permits. The town will not be issuing entertainment licenses or special event permits during the state of emergency.

Immediately following the town’s declaration, the town announced the closure of town offices on Monday, March 16. Urgent matters can be fielded by phone at 401-647-2822, ext. 100, for the town clerk, ext. 106 for the building official, ext. 128 for the tax collector, and ext. 122 for the town treasurer.

The town asked that all business that can be conducted through the mail be done that way.

Tax payments can be left at the drop box in front of the tax collector’s office.

While the order allows bars and restaurants to stay open, Raimondo ordered all bars, restaurants, cafés and coffee shops to suspend dine-in services until at least March 30. Take-out and delivery services are still allowed under her order.

Building inspections are suspended until further notice. Call 401-647-5901 for more information on building permits and inspections.