Council mulls testing for seasonal workers

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 2:45pm
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Interstate Navigation’s Director of Security Bill McCombe informed to the Town Council about a newly revised ferry schedule that will begin later in the month. The Town Council met on Friday, May 8 to continue its discussion on the town’s emergency ordinance that was started on Wednesday.

“We have received some feedback on our most recent schedule, which begins May 11 to Memorial Day weekend. Some of those concerns expressed the feeling that the schedule favored those who are coming to the island, but not those that are leaving from the island. After listening, we are going to accomplish this by making Wednesdays and Fridays a three boat day for the next three weeks. The boat will depart the island at 9:30 a.m. and return at 3:45 p.m. This will allow a little more time on those days. This will begin next week, and you can refer to the webpage for those times,” said McCombe. For the updated schedule, visit blockislandferry.com.

Councilor Chris Willi asked First Warden Lacoste if there was “information on how New England Airlines was handling” its passenger during the COVID-19 climate.

“They are doing reduced flights and schedules, and also doing a 50 percent capacity, [assigning] single seating in rows. They will be doing their flights with freight and medications,” said Lacoste.

Testing the seasonal workforce

With some members of the seasonal workforce, who come from countries all over the world, the council, with guidance from the island’s new physician, Dr. Tom Warcup, on possibly testing those new arrivals for the coronavirus.

“One of the things that you can consider, because of the difficulty in enforcement, is to consider requiring COVID-19 testing when [seasonal workers] come to the island,” said Dr. Warcup. He has recently succeeded Medical Director Dr. Mark Clark at the Block Island Medical Center.

Members of the council shared their mutual concerns about those arrivals, who may now be living in areas of high COVID-19 cases.

“I still have a concern with people coming out here from hotspots,” said Councilor André Boudreau.

Lacoste asked Dr. Warcup if testing would be an option and if the Medical Center could facilitate those tests.

“Yes… we have tests available, and we have the capacity to do it”, said Warcup.

The Town Council will meet again on Monday, May 11 at 4 p.m. to continue its discussion on testing, safety and medical protocols, on bike and moped license opening, and feedback from businesses on how to open the island for the 2020 season.