Covid on the rise, Council takes no action
Nearly one month removed from the alarming news that there had been over 11 cases of Covid in the 14 days following July 4, the New Shoreham Town Council appeared unfazed by learning of 14 cases in the past 14 days on Wednesday night. Dr. Tom Warcup reported to the council that 13 of the patients were previously vaccinated.
“Most of them were previously vaccinated, so the burden of disease has been pretty mild overall. The vaccines work,” Warcup said. He also told the council: “Masks really prevent the spread of Covid indoors, please wear a mask. Vaccinations really help prevent against serious disease. Not all of us in the community can get vaccinated, so please wear a mask indoors and help protect those of us in the community who are not able to get a vaccination.”
Councilor Mark Emmanuelle asked the doctor if he was comfortable staying the course on mask wearing, with it being “voluntary as opposed to a mandate.” Back when the council was concerned about 11 cases on the island, it made the difficult decision to impose a mask mandate, only to reverse course three days later in the face of stiff opposition from the business community. The council followed the wishes of their constituency of summer businesses, and made mask wearing voluntary.
Warcup sidestepped Emmanuelle’s question, saying: “Governing is tough in this regard. I would hope people would step up and do the right thing for all members of our community. This is our time to help each other out. It’s unfortunate if we have to have a mandate, but I’ll leave that to the policy-makers. I just know that masks prevent spread and vaccines prevent serious disease and I am encouraging those things for all of us.” Warcup went on to say he was “troubled” by the congregating of people indoors, and people crowding inside
The council then established, anecdotally, that the Glass Onion and the Island Bound Bookstore require masks. Though the room was full of business owners, and Tourism Council representatives, none of them spoke up to acknowledge any other island business that requires masks.
Councilor Keith Stover asked the doctor if someone who is vaccinated against Covid can test positive and still spread the virus.
Warcup explained that a vaccinated person may have few or no symptoms, but can still “spread virus particles.” Currently, children under 12 are ineligible for the vaccine, which Warcup pointed out while citing the rise in cases among children nationwide.
“So, we are pausing on making people wear masks indoors to the detriment of kids who are under 12 and those who are immuno-compromised,” Stover said.
“That would certainly be a factual statement,” Warcup answered.
Stover then went on to point out that the agenda item regarding an emergency town ordinance to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 had been removed from the agenda. As such, the council would be unable to do anything, even if it wanted to.
Town Manager Maryanne Crawford, who Rick Vila pointed out during his public comment was the only unmasked town official in the room, did not seem sure which agenda item Stover was referring to, and was unsure if it had been part of the agenda to begin with.
Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick assured Stover the agenda item had been on the original draft. Fitzpatrick would know, as she emailed the draft agenda to The Times last week as usual, and it was published on page 4 of last week’s paper. By the time the agenda was officially turned in to the Secretary of State on August 16, the item was gone.
Stover asked for the emergency ordinance agenda item to be placed on all future agendas, which Crawford agreed to do.
Crawford assured the council that she was working with the Medical Center and the Chamber of Commerce to start a messaging campaign to encourage mask wearing. “We’ve had a couple of conversations,” she said. When the mandating of masks was first proposed last month, the Chamber of Commerce sent an email out to its members encouraging them to share their feelings on the matter.
With no actionable agenda item on preventing the spread of Covid, the council moved on to other business.
The New Shoreham Town Council is next scheduled to meet in September.