ASHLAND – The Town of Ashland as of noon today, March 15, has zero coronavirus cases, but schools will be closed this week.
But with multiple cases in MertroWest, Ashland Town Manager Michael Herbert is making many changes in his community.
“These are truly unprecedented times that we are living in. No doubt, the Coronavirus is undoubtedly anxiety and disruption in your personal lives. Your town officials are trying to do everything they can to not contribute to this anxiety, and over the last 48 hours many in town have worked virtually around the clock to meet the challenges associated with the Coronavirus pandemic and ensure that we are able to encourage and help keep people as healthy as possible while also ensuring that we can continue to provide existing critical services for residents,” wrote Herbert to residents last night, March 14.
“At the same time, we are also trying to anticipate and prepare ourselves in order to provide the supports that will inevitably be needed as this crisis continues to unfold,” said Herbert.
These are the steps the Town has taken thus far:
- Set up a specific webpage that contains all relevant local information related to COVID-19. It contains both local, state, and federal information and guidance related to coronavirus. It can be found here . Please bookmark it.
- By Tuesday, we will have a dedicated phone line/email address that people can call in with any non-emergency COVID-19 issues. We will pass this information along by Monday, March 16 evening.
- Since the Governor relaxed Open Meeting Law requirements on Thursday night, we have been working to develop a comprehensive solution that Boards and Committees can utilize to facilitate remote participation by members and the public. After testing today, we will be using the Zoom platform for the following Board/Committee meetings: Select Board, School Committee, Planning Board, Board of Health, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Conservation Commission. Per the new guidelines, other boards and committees not using Zoom will be able to record their business, with the recording being published on the Town of Ashland website. Information to Board and Committee chairs on how to operate the platform will be sent to chairs on march 15. Instructions on how you the public can participate remotely will be posted on the website Sunday.
- Trash program is expected to run on schedule. A survey of bag vendors today revealed that there are still a significant number of bags available in stores. However should this situation change we do have a backup plan put in place to ensure that trash service stays on schedule.
- It is a very real possibility that town buildings will be closed to the public in the near future. Our employees, especially our IT and HR staff, are currently developing a way to still conduct town business remotely (permits, billing, vendor payments, etc) in an effort to reduce any impact to residents. More information about that process will be coming Monday, March 16
- In an effort to reduce the financial impact to the retail business community in Ashland while also providing food security for all of our residents, the Town’s Human Services Department is partnering with the Ashland Emergency Fund and local Ashland restaurants to provide food for those in need. Starting on Monday, utilizing donations from generous contributions from residents, businesses, and organizations, the Ashland Emergency Fund will purchase food from local restaurants that will then be provided to those who need food. More detailed information on this program will be provided tomorrow (3/16), but if you wish to help immediately, please consider making a donation to the Ashland Emergency Fund. This is the most effective way that residents can be helpful at this time.
“While we try to enjoy this respite from our everyday routines, please remember that these are not vacation days or snow days. Effective containment of the virus means we should all take precautions and practice “social distancing”. Unless required, please stay home,” wrote Herbert to residents.
“Try to look at this as an opportunity; not just something to endure. Binge watch some new shows. Catch up some of the projects you’ve been putting off at home. At the same time, just because we are staying apart physically doesn’t mean we need to lose other forms of connectedness,” wrote Herbert.
“Unfortunately there are those that will focus on the negative during these times and focus on the problems in the world. While there will be ample time for reflection, right now we should use our collective energy to focus on solutions,” wrote Herbert.
“And, while the COVID-19 pandemic is serious, it doesn’t require panic. What it does require is a systematic response and for all of us to completely change the way we conduct business and our lives. Hopefully by taking drastic action now, we can soon get back to normal. I can understand that from some peoples’ perspective, our response has been extreme and perhaps even hyperbolic to an extent. When this is all over with, we won’t know if we overreacted or did too much too soon. But we will surely know if we did too little too late.,” concluded Herbert in his message last night.