The coronavirus continues to upend lives in Andover, causing shutdowns that impact residents of all ages, shuttering places of work and play, and postponing the annual town election.
Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order this week, shutting down certain businesses in Andover and across the state, and strongly encouraging people to stay home as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus.
Here are the latest developments as Andover deals with the health crisis:
A second Andover resident has tested positive for the virus.
The annual town election, originally scheduled for March 24, was postponed and has not been rescheduled. On March 18, Essex County Superior Court approved Andover's request to delay the election due to the coronavirus. The Select Board will choose a new date at an upcoming meeting.
Absentee ballot applications can be found online and submitted by email to email@example.com. Absentee ballots are also available at the Town Offices, 36 Bartlet St., inside the ground-floor entrance, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Completed applications can be deposited in a secure drop box located next to the applications. Voters can also bring the applications home to complete and mail them to the town clerk's office at the same address.
The governor has ordered all businesses and organizations that do not provide "COVID-19 Essential Services'' closed for two weeks. A copy of the order and a full list of services can be found at www.mass.gov. All pharmacies and supermarkets remain open.
Town offices at 36 Bartlet St. and the administrative offices at 5 Campanelli Drive remain closed to the public until further notice. The offices are staffed and services are being provided to the public by phone and email, and by appointment if necessary. Residents can pay bills online anytime at www.andoverma.gov/billpay. Bill payments or correspondence involving other town business can be dropped off in the drop box in the half-circle driveway in front of the town offices.
The police and fire departments and essential public works and facilities services remain fully staffed and will continue without disruption.
Public schools remain closed through at least April 3, per the governor's order. The school district is providing free meals to students.
The Cormier Youth Center is closed, but Andover Youth Services is open for virtual business. All town playgrounds are closed to the public until further notice.
The Senior Center has expanded its Meals on Wheels program to help feed elders at their homes.
Houses of worship are closed or services are curtailed, with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston suspending Masses until further notice.
Memorial Hall Library is closed, but online resources, including downloadable books and movies are available at all hours, seven days a week. Contact the library Monday through Friday by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text message at 978-315-6123.
The MBTA's commuter rail service is operating on a reduced schedule.
The governor's emergency order calling for non-essential businesses to close and people to stay home went into effect on Tuesday and is expected to last through April 7 at noon. The businesses affected are encouraged to continue operating remotely. The order also limits gatherings to 10 people during the state of emergency, a reduction from the 25-person limit established in an earlier order.
After governor's emergency order this week, the Andover Select Board declared a local emergency to try to become eligible for state and federal money.
"It could be important as we seek federal and state reimbursement," said Town Manager Andrew Flanagan, adding that Andover joins hundreds of Massachusetts communities that also declared an emergency.
The Andover school district anticipates that schools could be ordered to remain closed beyond April 3 and is working to prepare for a prolonged closure, according to the public school website. On March 15, the state ordered the closure of public and private schools across Massachusetts.
As the number of people diagnosed with the virus increases, a second Andover resident has tested positive for the coronavirus. The state Department of Health notified the town about that resident, and Andover posted the information on its website March 21.
In a situation that's changing from hour to hour, fallout from the virus has put the squeeze on local businesses.
"Our restrictions are consistent with the governor's orders," Flanagan said. "At this point, we continue to evaluate the information available to us on a daily basis, but have not imposed any restrictions specific to Andover."
Despite numerous setbacks, the town is scrambling to meet the needs of its residents.
The Stop & Shop and Market Basket supermarkets are allowing senior citizens to have the stores to themselves on certain days. To lessen their chances of contracting the virus, people 60 and older can go to Stop & Shop every day from 6 to 7:30 a.m., while Market Basket is open to senior citizens only from 5:30 to 7 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Whole Foods Market has implemented the six-foot safe distance rule for shoppers waiting in line. Store officials have placed duct tape on floors to guide customers to safe distances.
Free boxed meals for Andover public school students are being provided while schools remain closed. Students can pick up two day's worth of breakfast and lunch at the front entrance of Andover High School every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Meals are also being dropped off by a refrigerated van at other locations across Andover on those same days between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Each stop lasts for 12 minutes. Visit www.aps1.net for drop-off times and locations.
Andover Youth Services is using its Instagram page to connect with students, offering a number of virtual activities to help students cope with the coronavirus situation.
The Senior Center has waived its evaluation process for participation in the Meals on Wheels program, thereby providing a hot lunch to any senior citizen in Andover. More information is available by calling 978-623-8320.
Flanagan said communication between the town and its residents is key during the crisis. He said the town is making every effort to communicate daily through email, website and all social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
"If residents do not have internet access, but have a cell phone, I encourage them to sign up for Andover News Alerts, which distributes critical information through text messaging,'' Flanagan said. "We are also able to call both landlines and cellphones in the event of an emergency."