Coronavirus cripples Andover

Fire and police officials across the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire — and around the globe for that matter — are on heightened alert as coronavirus continues to spread. Local departments are taking extra precautions when dealing with the public to slow the spread of COVID-19.CARL RUSSO/Staff file photo

The coronavirus crisis has deeply affected life in Andover, particularly the educational community, from kindergarten to college, as schools remain closed.

The virus threatens to halt the local political process, as Andover seeks state approval to postpone next week's town election.

The disease has firefighters and other first responders on high alert, both for the sake of their own health and that of the public. It has also halted gatherings at local houses of worship and caused shoppers to clear supermarket shelves of essential items, as residents fear the possibility of being home-bound for long periods.

As local leaders try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, here is a detailed look at the impact on the community:

The town election scheduled for March 24 may be postponed. At a special Select Board meeting this week, the board began pursuing several avenues to delay the election, including approval from a court, the governor or Legislature.

Public schools are closed until at least April 6, per Gov. Charlie Baker's order. SAT testing in May is cancelled and the AP Program is developing resources to support student learning during the school closures. School trips are canceled.

All spring high school sports are cancelled until April 27 per order of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Many shelves at local grocery stores have been picked clean by customers stocking up in case they face a quarantine or so they can remain in their homes by choice. In particular, toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer are often sold out, although stores say they are working hard to restock. 

Andover is designating 10 spots in the downtown area for curbside pickup of takeout food, after the governor banned bars and restaurants statewide from serving food and drinks on site. The pickup areas will be in municipal lots and on Park and Barnard streets, the town manager said.

The Senior Center is closed but the town is still offering services to elders. Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said Meals on Wheels has been expanded to bring food to senior citizens' homes, and other services are available by appointment.

Houses of worship are closed or services are curtailed, with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston suspending Masses until further notice.

Town offices and administrative buildings are closed to the public until further notice. The offices are staffed and services are provided to the public by phone, email and appointment if necessary.

The Police Department is temporarily suspending its car seat installation program and taxi licensing services. Food donations will also no longer be accepted at the Public Safety Building.

The MBTA's commuter rail service is operating on a reduced schedule.

Memorial Hall Library is closed.

Flanagan said the coronavirus has made it difficult for the town to provide public services while maintaining a safe environment for town workers. He said, however, that the community is well equipped for the health crisis because of what the people of Andover went through during the Merrimack Valley gas disaster two years ago. 

"Andover residents and businesses are resilient and continue to show strength of character during the crisis,'' Flanagan said. "I think the community's relationship with the town and each other strengthened during the response to the gas disaster, and we have all relied on that experience to help guide us through this situation."

 

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