The town of Andover’s annual Town Meeting is scheduled for the end of June, which will be smack dab in the midst of the current high infection rate of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged our state, taking more than 6,000 lives by the time this is published.
Community spread of this deadly disease is so rampant that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just updated their projection of deaths, indicating that nationwide 50,000 people who are currently completely free from coronavirus are going to pick it up over the next couple of months and die from it by Aug. 1. Some of those 50,000 could be residents of Andover who pick up coronavirus at Town Meeting if it’s held next month.
While our Select Board doesn't even hold its meetings in person — for sound public health reasons — town officials are charging ahead to hold Town Meeting, a mass gathering that violates every form of medical guidance issued by the National Institutes of Health to prevent spread of this deadly disease. It would have upwards of 2,000 people in an enclosed space, for several hours at a clip, a mere four weeks from now.
Given the data and statistics on this disease and how diabolical this pathogen is at spreading itself even when the most stringent precautions are applied — it spread among people who work in the White House, and their ability to be mitigate spread dramatically exceeds anything the town of Andover can do to protect a mass gathering of thousands — it it’s inevitable that coronavirus will spread among uninfected residents at Town Meeting.
Coronavirus does not care what politicians say. It will do its own thing.
Town officials are even waffling on whether they are going to mandate that everyone coming into the building for Town Meeting wear a face mask from the time they enter until the time they exit the building. We sadly know from the news that some extremists are politicizing the wearing of face masks; these are people who do not care if they are spreading coronavirus to others while they practice their political extremism, even becoming violent when told they need to wear a face mask for public health reasons.
It is still unclear if the town will have Andover police enforce the wearing of face masks by everyone.
National health officials are now saying that recent studies show social distancing at six feet of separation is insufficient for group meetings. The coronavirus can spread upwards of 30 feet in environments where people are speaking — which is what Town Meeting has lots of.
To our town officials, who say their hands are tied, we do have on the Select Board a career politician who has all kinds of connections to the state Legislature and to Gov. Charlie Baker. Rather than shrugging their shoulders on this, our Select Board should have this pol working all of his connections to get the state to realize the exigent circumstances of this pandemic and that they necessitate the state allowing for postponement of Town Meeting so that attendance is not, for some, a death warrant.
This highly infectious and deadly virus is going to use every venue presented to spread itself, and Town Meeting next month is like putting out a smorgasbord of people in a confined space for it to feast upon.
Town Meeting needs to be postponed until town officials can guarantee residents’ safety from picking up coronavirus at Town Meeting.
Holding it in June will be the height of irresponsibility by town officials.