Council: No new restrictions to emergency ordinance
Although anxiety and concern in the community have recently risen after news broke that three new confirmed cases of Covid19 were reported on the island, the Town Council did not enact any new amendments to the existing Emergency Ordinance that was approved in March.
However, it was learned on Wednesday, Nov. 11, that Dr. Warcup had tested positive for Covid-19. The following message was shared to the community from the Block Island Medical Center:
“Dear Block Island Community:
Earlier this afternoon, Dr. Warcup tested positive for COVID-19 via the Abbott rapid test. We are putting our COVID-19 action plan into place. We will be closing the medical center for the remainder of the week for deep cleaning. We anticipate a return to service on Saturday afternoon once Laurie Anderson arrives. We are in contact with the DOH and will update you immediately with any changes to our plan. We will be available for emergencies in the safest way possible.”
What the members of the Council did do was re-emphasize the messaging issued by Dr. Warcup and Town Manager Maryanne Crawford to be vigilant and disciplined in the next couple of weeks to avoid any further cases.
Dr. Warcup joined the Town Council’s Work Session on Monday, Nov. 9 to address the recent Covid-19 cases. Over the weekend, Warcup announced three individuals in the community had tested positive, with two of the individuals being elementary students at the Block Island School.
Warcup added that all of the tests that “were run last week [at the Fire Barn], there has not been a positive that has come from those.” Asymptomatic Covid-19 testing has been occurring at the Fire Barn on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Second Warden André Boudreau asked what steps should someone take if they come into contact with a person that has tested positive.
“What would they need to do right now?” asked Boudreau.
“Quarantine. I can empathize with the anxiety, but if you are in direct contact with someone where you feel like you have been in contact for more than 15 minutes, within six feet, and no mask — your treatment strategy is to quarantine. If you develop symptoms, please let us know. And if you don’t develop symptoms, please quarantine for 14 days,” said Warcup.
“If you’ve been in contact with anyone testing positive, it means not to go anywhere. I know that’s tough, but that’s what the doctor is telling us,” said Boudreau.
Warcup added that students in grades three to six at the Block Island School are in quarantine, but “siblings of individuals of those in the classes do not need to quarantine.” The recent cases at the school prompted a move to online learning until the end of the month.
Chamber of Commerce Director Cindy Lasser jumped on the call to share news on the upcoming Holiday Stroll, which is scheduled to take place on the weekend after Thanksgiving. In previous seasons, the Holiday Stroll has provided opportunities for local businesses to sell their merchandise to residents and tourists for the holidays.
“We are doing a very quiet version of the stroll because so many of the shop owners really want to be open and they had a good summer,” said Lasser. “We are ready to cancel at any time. Dr. Warcup did say that the businesses did a phenomenal job this summer. At this point, it seems as though it’s fine to do it,” said Lasser.
“I am very much in favor of keeping a low key stroll. I actually think that the stroll is good for the people, too — seeing the lights and the tents up, the warmth from the island,” said Councilor Sven Risom.
Councilor Chris Willi asked about having a presence from R.I. Department of Business Regulation on the island for the holiday season. DBR had previously come out to the island during the summer season on multiple occasions to monitor businesses on their regulations and protocols during Covid-19.
“I don’t think it’s going to get less restrictive for a little while. We need to be prepared moving towards the holiday season,” said Willi.
First Warden Ken Lacoste asked Town Manager Maryanne Crawford to find out if DBR would be willing to come out to the island and provide assistance if it is needed.
“I can do that,” said Crawford.
Update on Andy’s Way and Grace’s Cove
Crawford shared the following updates on the Andy’s Way and Grace’s Cove projects. The two projects have been prioritized by the Shoreline Access Working Group, which “need attention and support from the town, in part to ensure safe and easy access to the shoreline, or to confirm and re-establish the access as deeded,” Crawford said.
Crawford reminded the council that the Andy’s Way project had received a $47,000 grant from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management in the spring to improve beach access and parking. An agreement had recently been signed for a coastal engineer to conduct site visits, specifications and “finalize everything to get this project out to bid.”
Risom also announced on behalf of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond a donation of $15,000 for the project in memory of Jan Emsbo.
“I was asked by the Committee for Great Salt Pond board to let the Town Council know officially there will be a check coming for $15,000 for this project. A great amount was raised by the Jon Emsbo family. It should help get this project done,” said Risom.
“The application for Andy’s Way went before the Zoning Board and was approved. It currently is with the Conservation Committee and the Planning Board strictly for an advisory perspective. Once that is done, the application will go back to the Zoning Board for a public hearing targeted for the February meeting,” said Crawford. “Once that is approved, we must submit the application for [R.I Coastal Resources Management Council] and will most likely do that in March. If all goes well and we can stick to this schedule, there is a good possibility to start construction in April or May and get it done before the summer season. I think we may have to delay and wait until the summer is over because all you need is one minor hiccup with the schedule here, and it will put us in that timeframe.”
For the Grace’s Cove project, Crawford announced “we did not receive a grant for Grace’s Cove. That project is in a holding pattern, and will be discussed in this year’s budget process.”
The Shoreline Access Working Group reviewed the Grace’s Cove parking area and a path to the beach, which currently has severe erosion. The recommended actions to treat the erosion: Create two separate paths, a drainage path, as well as a walking path; Conduct survey of land to determine a location for a walking structure or a path, given rain-water run-off.
Cable, dredging on schedule
Crawford noted that all employees working with the cable reburial project and dredging in Old Harbor are tested for Covid-19 before coming to the island. A Covid-19 plan has also been submitted to Dr. Warcup for review.
Crawford said the reburial project was still on schedule.
“The project is on schedule to be completed as originally thought. Currently, some of the smaller barges that are in will be moved out, and a much larger barge will be coming in and stored off the beach. The barge has housing for staff up to 21 – gives you an idea of how large the barge is,” said Crawford. “They plan to start drilling around Nov. 13. We need to reach out to R.I. Department of Transportation to get permission to have a lane closure on Corn Neck Road (which is a state road). The New Shoreham Police Dept. are aware of the road closure.”
The expected completion date of early May is still on schedule, as well.
“We don’t anticipate any situations at this point. We did have some questions and issues raised before the town regarding Covid-19. Facilities Manager Sam Bird and I worked closely with Ørsted Project Manager Bryan Wilson, and he has addressed the concerns with his employees,” said Crawford.
The dredging project in Old Harbor “is moving along pretty much on schedule, with an anticipated completion date for late December to early January,” said Crawford.
“The early news is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to do the dredging - the town’s dredging that needs to be done. They also have reached out to the ferry company to see if they want the Army Corps to do dredging where the ferries land. We greatly appreciate what the Army Corps has done with taking on some extra dredging on behalf of the town, and also for Interstate Navigation and the ferry system,” said Crawford.