Council to meet tonight on emergency declaration

Tuesday, March 17
Tue, 03/17/2020 - 10:15am

With developments about the impact of the novel coronavirus changing daily, the Block Island Town Council has asked Town Manager Jim Kern and Town Solicitor Kathy Merolla to draft an emergency declaration that it will be able to review and possibly approve at a meeting to be held tonight, Tuesday, March 17, at 7 p.m.

The council held an emergency meeting on Monday, March 16 at 4 p.m. at Town Hall.

The declaration will ease some restrictions now in place regarding public meetings and putting limits on the number of attendees at a gathering or public function.

The Council also addressed the concerns, if not outright fear, that some year-round residents have expressed about the potential sudden influx of people coming to the island that may overload island resources, such as those provided by the Medical Center and the grocery store.

While the council members understood that no restrictions either could or should be put on those who decide to come to the island during this time of crisis, especially if those people were homeowners, the members felt that when word got out that all restaurants and other basic forms of entertainment had been stopped, it would become apparent that Block Island was not the place to be.

“I’ll say it,” said Second Warden André Boudreau. “If you don’t have business here, don’t come.”

It was also noted by Dr. Mark Clark, director of the Block Island Medical Center, that the island facility had very limited resources — three exam rooms and one trauma center — that could not handle a large-scale medical emergency.

If the coronavirus did appear on Block Island, he said, “it would be very difficult to contain.” He said anyone diagnosed with the virus would not treated here, but taken off.

Clark said he would strongly recommend that anyone who is on the island now limit their social interactions to activities that are only absolutely necessary, but he said those types social restrictions should be “heightened” for anyone who has recently come to the island from the mainland, or is returning from an extended stay elsewhere.

The council will meet again tomorrow, March 17, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The Block Island Times will be live streaming this meeting on its Facebook page.

This is a developing story. See blockislandtimes.com for updated information.