BOS Hears Appeal for Winchendon First Responders to Receive Pandemic Premium Pay from ARPA Funds
A number of Winchendon's first responders appeared before the Board of Selectmen on Monday, May 9 to express support for a proposal made by town resident Dr. Maureen Ward at a previous meeting. The ensuing discussion, from which Board Vice-Chair Rick Ward recused himself, lasted a full hour as Selectman Barbara Anderson (chairing the discussion in the absence of Board Chair Audrey LaBrie and Vice-Chair Ward) challenged the speakers with a series of questions.
At the Board of Selectmen's meeting on Monday April 25, Dr. Ward rose to present her proposal during the public comment section at the start of the meeting. "I've been doing some research on how different towns in Massachusetts are using their ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act federal COVID-19 relief monies] funding," she began. "And I have found that over fifty communities are using at least some of those funds to say 'thank you' to our first responders: police, fire, EMT, ambulance, secretaries, custodians, anyone who kept those two departments open and working for the past two years."
Dr. Ward stated that these towns were not "pro-rating" their payments according to how many hours the employee worked, but offering it as a flat fee to all equally. Amounts range from $1,250 to as high as $7,500, but $2,500 per person seemed to be the most typical.
"Some will say it's their job, and we shouldn't be rewarding them, and I would disagree," Dr. Ward went on. "No one predicted a worldwide global pandemic. We were comfortable in our belief that our modern day medicine would protect us. We were wrong. Police and firefighters did not have the option of working remotely. They do not have the option to say 'I'm not going to respond to that call.' We currently have 836 active COVID residences in Winchendon. They still go to those calls. Every time one of our first responders answers a call they wonder, 'are we bringing it back to the station? Or worse, are we bringing it home to our families?'"
Dr. Ward noted that the Winchendon Police Department has 31 employees and the Fire Department has 40 employees. "This is secretaries, custodians, dispatchers, officers, everyone who kept those two departments opened and working. That's a total of 71 people. The most common monetary value: $2,500. So $177,500 from ARPA funding from March 2020 to March '22, 730 days, that works out to $3.43 a day."
The Board thanked Dr. Ward for her proposal and did not discuss the topic at that time.
Employees of the Winchendon Police Department and Fire Department, represented by Head Dispatcher Supervisor for 911 Winchendon Robert Coulombe, appeared before the Board of Selectmen at their Monday, May 9, meeting to discuss Dr. Ward's proposal and offer hard documentation and personal experiences in support of it.
The discussion among presenters, the Board and the Town Manager went far longer than expected, as there were many questions and possibilities raised. Board Chair Audrey LaBrie was unable to make the meeting. Vice Chair Rick Ward recused himself on the grounds that his son is a dispatcher for Cheshire County, NH who sometimes fills in for Winchendon, and his participation would be a conflict of interest. Selectmen Barbara Anderson, Amy Salter and Danielle LaPointe remained, with Selectman Anderson serving as de facto Chair for the discussion.
The proposal was a last-minute addition to the agenda of the May 9 BOS meeting. Town Manager Justin Sultzbach opened the discussion by explaining that his office "has been examining data and trends in comparison to other communities." About 15 percent of the municipalities in Massachusetts have offered a bonus to first responders, Sultzbach stated; many of them are larger than Winchendon and received far more ARPA funding. Winchendon received $3.4 million, Mr. Sultzbach stated, of which approximately $1 million is left. "I want to stress also that every determination that we make isn't always based on what others are doing," Mr. Sultzbach said. "But it provides a good baseline and I think it gives us some direction." He said the town should have "a preliminary discussion" and that other funding sources might be available in the future. (The percentage of communities that have so far paid or are finalizing stipends is now 18.8 percent--66 out of 351--and rising.)
Sultzbach added, "We would like to take this time to say thank you all for attending this evening to start the conversation, but on behalf of the town, we are very proud, grateful, and supportive of our First Responders, in what has been a very difficult two years for both them and their families and requires a lot of sacrifice, not only with the COVID-19 pandemic, but as a career choice in general."
Coulombe then rose to explain that at least 63 of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns, so far, have used available received funds from ARPA to provide an additional stipend payment or "Premium Pay" to first responders in the top four categories listed by the federal government: Police, Fire, EMS, and DPW workers. These were employees who during the federally mandated shutdown, due to the "essential" nature of their jobs, continued working out in the field, and "needed to enter the homes, congregate homes, nursing homes, or assisted living centers, of any person or persons at any time, regardless of their condition of health, as needed anytime, anywhere, with no notice" to meet urgent personal and public health needs.
ARPA gave over $3.4 billion in direct support to Massachusetts cities and towns to respond to and recover from COVID-19. Winchendon received $3.4 million. The language of ARPA specifies that each municipality may use some of that funding to provide "Premium Pay" to various essential workers such as public safety officials, first responders, and others, up to a maximum payment of $25,000 per worker. No municipality in the Commonwealth has approached that maximum; the highest to date is $7,500 per employee paid by the town of Ware which is financially challenged. The lowest individual Premium Pay amount is $500 per employee by the town of Harvard which is among the state's most affluent communities.
Coulombe explained the many challenges faced by the employees of Police, Fire, and EMS departments during the ongoing pandemic--the stress created by the increases in call volume over the last three years, the battle of having to pull multiple shifts many days a week as fellow staff in Police, Fire, and EMS departments were legally mandated to provide services, and some staff contracted COVID themselves and were unable to work. Coulombe spoke at some length.
Locally, Premium Pay has been offered to employees of Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, Petersham, Phillipston, Rutland, Ashby, and other Worcester County towns in the amount of $2,500 per First Response employee. Ashburnham and Templeton doubled that Premium Pay boost to $5,000 each. Hubbardston is currently deciding on an amount between $2,500 and $5,000. The conversation continues to gain traction around the Commonwealth, and was the topic of a recent news story on CBS Boston Local news (video will autoplay).
There was considerable debate as to which town employees were eligible for Premium Pay First Responder Bonuses. Selectman Anderson asked, what about public school teachers. It was clarified that any bonuses for public school teachers would have to come from Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Grant Funds, and that also, ARPA Funds cannot be used for any positions where work was done remotely from home.
Coulombe pointed out that according to the Federal Government U.S. Department of the Treasury guidelines, "Premium Pay is designated for eligible workers performing essential work, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical sectors." Throughout the entire pandemic, beginning with the March, 2020 initial national shutdown, Police, Fire, EMS, and DPW workers were the main municipal sectors whose employees were required by the nature of their jobs to enter private homes not knowing the health of the occupants or if the residents had been vaccinated after the vaccine was available, due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) confidentiality mandate.
Coulombe gave the Board copies of the U.S. Treasury publication titled "Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds: Overview of the Final Rule," and pointed out that accoording to the document, recipients may also use State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) to restore and bolster the public sector capacity, which supports the government's ability to deliver critical COVID-19 services. SLFRF may be used for Public Safety, Public Health, and Human Service Staff, including Police Officers, Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Responders, Correctional and detention Officers, and Dispatchers and Supervisor Personnel who directly support public safety staff.
Coulombe informed the Board that in 2020, ambulance calls were up 43 percent, and in 2021, up 37 percent, and just 5 months into 2022, calls are up 41 percent. Police calls in 2020 were up 35 percent, 2021, up another 42 percent, and already this year to date in 2022, up 53 percent. "I wish we didn't have to come here," Coulombe went on. "It's nice to be appreciated and I think we are, but we are here, and we are asking to be appreciated. 'Thank You' goes a long way. We are not asking for $7,000, but we are asking for something."
In response to a question directed at Selectman Anderson, "are you saying that the first responders shouldn't have anything?" Sultzbach interjected that before ARPA, the town had received federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act money, and some of that had been spent on assistance for first responders, including PPE and temperature controlled storage for it, a washer and dryer for sanitizing gear and a lifting device to assist in moving patients.
After the meeting, Sultzbach told the Courier that his office has approved funding for a new additional part time dispatcher's position to help with the increased call frequency, effective in the new fiscal year (FY23), which begins July 1, 2022. The new position should begin in the late summer to early fall.
Anderson explained that while she was very thankful for all services, she was very hesitant to spend money as she felt she didn't know what was still coming down the road. Coulombe responded, "The virus is never going to go away, and will always be here. It's like going to war every day." Anderson replied, "I go to work at the grocery store every day, I am right there on the front lines with you," eliciting visible reactions from employees of the Police Department in the audience. Anderson also questioned whether part time or reserve officers, or on-call staff, would deserve the same amount as full time personnel. One WPD employee rose to confirm that in his opinion they would, as the part timers fill vital and crucial roles, on short notice, filling in as needed to keep staffing levels at minimum complements for public safety. He added that the department couldn't do it without them.
Selectman LaPointe said, "I think I'm hearing two things. I'm hearing one, a question of this board is if we were to want or be able to do some sort of monetary recognition for first responders perhaps it should be tiered or perhaps [connected] to some sort of health exposure levels. The second thing I'm hearing which may be even more important is that if you feel perhaps our dispatchers and our first responders aren't feeling that their impact is valued in the community." She suggested some kind of education for the public and acknowledgement of the value and the danger of their work. Coulombe said he agreed with LaPointe 100 percent.
WFD firefighter and Paramedic Andrew Harding rose to say, "We came in every single day. We never had the option to ever work from home. I came in every single day, and I never called out a single shift, since it started. If you want to try to find a line, we never had the option to stay home, not a single one of us. The option was we had to come to work, and we did it. It's about appreciation. Does there have to be a dollar amount attached to that? Not necessarily, but the state and federal government put the money out there for that availability because we are attending every single call, longer and harder, that we can never ever say no to."
Selectman Anderson stated that the police station had been closed to the public for walk-in traffic for a few months (as was Town Hall, the Senior Center, the Winchendon CAC, the Beals Memorial library, the schools, and most of the town). Mr. Harding pointed out that someone was always there to respond to any call or need from residents.
With the discussion having now continued for 48 minutes, BOS member LaPointe proclaimed, "On my own behalf I am very sorry, that I feel like you are all being raked over the coals, rather than being given thanks and recognition, for the job you've done over the past two years, and when there is no end in sight."
Selectman Amy Salter commented, "The economy is tanking. We don't know down the road what is going to happen. We need to start thinking about instead of doling out all this money, holding on to it to see what does happen. It's very concerning. It's gonna run out, and we're all going to pay it back. It's just a temporary fix, and that really concerns me."
Chair of the Board of Health Keith Kent rose to re-emphasize much of what had been said about the dangers and confused safety advice first responders dealt with throughout the pandemic, saying "we need to build bridges" and support our essential First Response staff after everything we've all gone through.
Coulombe told the Board that they could visit him at the police station during any of his shifts and he'll give them a live demonstration of what the dispatcher's job entails. Answering 911 lines requires special training and by law, can't be done by just anyone.
No motion was made or decision reached at the meeting. The topic will continue to be discussed by the Town Manager's office and town boards. Citizens who wish to share information or express an opinion may contact the Town Manager's office or Board of Selectmen.
Coulombe sent the Courier the following statement for publication:
First Responders, Police Fire & Dispatchers that answer the call 24/7.Watch the entire discussion on video (begins at 00:48:42 on the recording).
These are the men and women that place the community first and themselves second. These first responders never question the magnitude or the dangerousness of the call. It's in our blood to provide the best quality of care for the citizens in need of help. When the Coronavirus pandemic hit this community we all never imagined the threat to human life and the seriousness of this invisible deadly virus.
The first responders entered the front line and faced this pandemic head-on for over two years without any excuse and without regard of their own safety. I myself as a dispatcher with over 28 years of experience have never seen such a demand for service with no signs of slowing down. Each and every year since the beginning of this pandemic the calls for service have increased dramatically. The first responders tirelessly continue to respond. The state has provided a relief fund named ARPA funding which is defined as Premium Pay to be distributed within the city and towns of Massachusetts along certain criteria. The first responders are listed as one of the categories on the list of distribution.
Regardless of which direction the Town of Winchendon chooses to use the available ARPA funding, services provided by all first responders will be unchanged. I know speaking for the police, fire and dispatchers this will not stop or change the quality of service that we have dedicated and committed ourselves to serving the Town Of Winchendon.
Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds: Overview of the Final Rule January, 2022, provided to Board of Selectmen (PDF, 43 pages)
At Least 50 People Turn Out for Town-Wide Clean-Up on Winchendon's Earth Day
Girl Scouts unite! Members of local Girl Scouts Troops 64743 and 64744 cleaning up the grounds and woods around Toy Town Elementary School during the Town of Winchendon Earth Day celebrations on Saturday, May 7, doing their very best to help out the community.
Photo by Keith Kent
A nearly full large roll-off dumpster. By the end of Saturday, May 7, close to 50 cubic yards of waste had been collected from all over Toy Town, nearly filling this large open top dumpster. By the end of Sunday, upon examination, more had been deposited filling it nearly to the door, with the addition of illegal dumping found near fire hydrant along the north side of Spring Street, among other items.
Photo by Keith Kent
It started out a cold and windy day at just 43 degrees with 30 mph wind gusts, not exactly what one would hope for on an early May Saturday. However that didn't stop a contingent of over fifty Winchendon residents from showing just how much they cared about their community, as many hands worked diligently united as one. They collected nearly 50 cubic yards of waste of all kinds, showing their strong Toy Town pride, cleaning up their town the best they could as Winchendon celebrated its Earth Day on Saturday, May 7, helping the town go green even when at times it felt cold enough to snow.
Support was strong, both in ages and businesses. People ranging from the very youngest with boys and girls as young as 5 years old did their part, with members of the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Brownies and Girl Scouts leading the way. There was no shortage of seniors on hand, as men and women up to the age of 80 took their best shot at showing many one quarter their age more than a thing or two while providing plenty of town pride and a strong patriotic effort!
Thanks is due to many local businesses for their continued Earth Day support in Toy Town. Belletetes of Winchendon deserves praise for their continued assistance in donations of large trash bags, gloves and more over the years. McDonald's donated gift cards for a burger and an ice cream, Lickity Splitz again stepped up to donate coupons for ice cream, Gabby's Pizza donated two large party size boxes of pizza, Cumberland Farms offered fountain drinks, and Aubuchon Hardware of Gardner supported the cause with a super-sized donation of 22 metal Grabber - Reaching Tools with the hand trigger operating jaws, many pairs of gloves of varying types, and more! All much appreciated for helping the town and its people in the Earth Day worthy cause.
Junk and trash removed from the road included four CRT style computer monitors and a VCR, all illegally dumped at the dead end of Prospect Street. Along Spring Street and Route 12 by a fire hydrant was more illegal dumping of trash, enough to fill a 30 gallon black bag, plus a vacuum cleaner. On Lincoln Avenue Extension were a dozen tires, a recliner, a couch, a flat screen television, at least 50 pounds of soggy soiled diapers, children's toys, and the list goes on.
At Town Town Elementary, hope for the future, while some of America's youngest showed many of our older citizens how it's done. Members of the Girl Scouts cleaned the grounds collecting rubbish with a smile, more than happy to help on the town wide celebration of Earth Day. Elsewhere around town, members of the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of Winchendon Troop and Pack 193 pitched in with a helping hand, doing their part for Winchendon's Earth Day cause.
One by one, car by car and truck by truck, people pulled up alongside the large dumpster across from the Town Hall to unload their findings after jobs well done. One gentleman, a former Chair of Conservation, picked up an entire illegal camping site left in the woods to rot off Robbins Road. Others worked for hours at a time, picking up the sides of two, three, and even four roads and streets they listed by their names so others would know where not to go as they were already completed.
People could be seen cleaning up along the Spring Street Bridge, others along G.A.R. Park. Selectman Barbara Anderson pitched in as always donating time for the worthy cause along Front Street and River Street, and even Toy Town Police Officer Rick Oinonen lent a helping hand, as well as his wonderful mother Marge. From all ages and all professions, people stepped up, so the rubbish count would drop down. One couple again spent the last two weeks leading up to the town Earth Day picking up 22 large clear bags of rubbish, cleaning the entire length of both sides of Forristall Road as they do every single year.
Also prior and leading up to Earth Day, the Bike Path from Black Bridge to Glenallen Street had been picked up, with a dumping site of 200 beer cans removed along the water behind the River Walk Restaurant, and the YMCA track and Field had already also been cleaned. Town Farm Road had been cleared of "Bulky Waste" and several people had picked up nearly 2,000 nip bottles along with other bottles and cans from the Franklin Street tri-street area.
By the end of the Earth Day event at 2:00 p.m. there was a strong feeling of accomplishment. Supplies were put away, and the dumpster was locked up. Fifty plus people in less than eight hours had collected nearly 50 cubic yards. There was more to go, but it was a very solid start. For those you that pitched in for the worthy cause, the Town of Winchendon thanks you, and you should be proud of your efforts. Great job to all!
Lincoln Avenue Extension problems continue. No less than four loads of illegally dumped tires, furniture, children's toys, televisions, and much more, were removed from Lincoln Avenue Extension, by Town of Winchendon Board of Health Chair Keith Kent, and Health Agent James Abare, in what continues to be the largest bulky waste illegal dumping area in the entire town.
Photos by Keith Kent
After Two-year Hiatus, Lake Dennison Resumes Charging Regular Season Fees, Going Cashless
Seen at the Lake Dennison State Park entrance on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8, Mass DCR and Mass Parks has made it clear that parking fees will soon resume, and will be based on a cashless pay-as-you-go system.
Installed at the Lake Dennison main beach parking lot are two new pay-as-you-go cashless proof of payment systems, where the customer will enter a debit or credit card and their vehicle license plate number, and print up a proof of payment voucher to leave on their dashboard as is done at other state parks around the Commonwealth. Photos by Keith Kent
Gone are the days when families would stop at a booth, kiosk, or gate at a beach where an attendant could accept cash payment and provide the attendees with change. That last took place at Lake Dennison State Park at the end of the regular season in 2019. After the statewide COVID shutdown in March 2020, Mass Parks and Mass DCR temporarily froze all park admission and parking pass fees for the years of 2020 and 2021. Now in 2022, with many back to work, the local State Park "Free Pass" has come to an end, and the Commonwealth wants its money.
Posted at the Lake Dennison State Park main access road entrance is a large electronic sign with the following messages. "SORRY CASH NOT ACCEPTED" and "5/14 9-5 PAY TO PARK." Little has changed in the main Lake Dennison parking lot except for the addition of one piece of technology, a solar powered electronic pay station, facilitating the mandated cashless payment system. The pay station is located on the lake side of the parking lot. Customers can enter a debit or credit card and their vehicle license plate number, and a receipt will print out, which will be left on their dashboard as proof of payment with the amount of time the vehicle has been parked.
An identical payment machine is located at the lower section of the parking lot, by the entrance gate near the beach public restrooms, for customers in the lower parking lot on busier days when more than one pay station would be useful. Others may soon be added where deemed necessary by park officials.
There are several options for State Park and Parking Passes. A search on Mass.Gov brings up lifetime parking passes available for senior citizens ages 62 and over, costing $10, and taking four to seven weeks to receive by mail. Those who want a traditional $60 regular season Paper Parking Pass they can leave on the vehicle dashboard can also apply online, and receive a confirmation by email. Once received, the pass can be printed out as many times as needed during the year it is good for. There is also the Smart Photo YODEL app on the Mass DCR YODEL webpage.
For locals who just want to walk through the park, or ride their bicycles through the park, there are no restrictions on entering by foot or bicycle from the public streets which intersect the gates of the bisecting roads of the parks.
Parking is allowed alongside town roads (but not state highways such as Rte 202). Alternative on-street parking may be found near the park gate intersection of Main Street and the old State Park road of Royalston Road South. Winchendon residents can also take Sibley Road to Royalston Road South, and follow it to its park gate intersection along Royalston Road South. Other options would include the multiple back entrance roads through the Royalston side of the Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area, where many walk, bike, fish, kayak and canoe at nearby favorites such as Stump and Beaver Ponds, if one is just looking to walk or ride bicycles for simple exercise and not have to pay fees.
While Mass State Park passes do cover most state parks such as Mount Greylock in the west, "highest point in the state," to parks on Cape Cod along the ocean, they do not cover all, as some do charge hourly parking rates. Please check online or call before setting out on your solitary or family fun adventure to see which apply.
For a list of Mass State Parks in alphabetical order please visit www.mass.gov/visit-massachusetts-state-parks/locations
To find and reserve a campsite that is right for you - www.mass.gov/how-to/reserve-a-campsite
Research a Massachusetts state parking pass through YODEL, please visit https://massdcrparks.yodelpass.com/masswebpasses/#/
If you would like to apply for a Senior Mass State Parks Pass, Tradition Mass State Park Pass, or search others options or information, please visit www.mass.gov/guides/parking-at-massachusetts-state-parks#-annual-parking-passes-
Sons of American Legion Post 193 Donate to Winchendon Veterans Housing
Mike Antonellis of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron #193 hands a check for $3,000 to Stephanie Marchetti, Executive Director of the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center of Gardner, to assist with costs for the upcoming construction of the Winchendon Veterans Housing Project. In back row, from left, are American Legion members Ken LaBrack, Jason Phelps, and Pat Doyle.
Photo courtesy of American Legion Post 193
Check by check, and step by step, the ground-breaking slowly gets closer and closer. One more step was taken this past Saturday, May 7, as members the Sons of the American Legion, Post 193, Winchendon, donated a check for $3,000 to the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center of Gardner, in support of the Winchendon Veterans Housing Project.
Sons of the American Legion member Mike Antonellis explained, "When previously discussing donations to make after coming back together after the pandemic, this was the very first donation we decided to make. Antonellis also added, "The reason we exist is because of veterans, and our mission is to support veterans in any way we can. It was a nobrainer that we make this donation, because it's so important that we take care of our veterans."
Asked if Stephanie Marchetti, Executive Director of MVOC, informed the Sons of the American Legion of the pending Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) funding that could allow for breaking ground this fall, Antonellis responded, "We are hoping and praying it goes through!"
Marchetti was contacted by the Courier regarding the donation. Upon receiving the $3,000 donation she said, "This is another great show of support from the town of Winchendon, we are so appreciative, and every donation brings the future Veterans Housing project one step closer."
Recently Marchetti announced that MVOC had received a $1 million grant commitment from the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program just a few weeks ago. She told the Courier, "We now hope in the next few weeks to receive confirmation on a much larger sum of funding that will allow us to keep on track, so all positive news so far. The funding we are looking for is from the DHCD, or the Department of Housing and Community Development. We applied for several million dollars of funding through them that connects with low income housing tax credits, and if fortunate enough to be awarded, we will break ground this fall."
To read previous Courier coverage with the design plans, building features, and more for the Winchendon Veterans Housing Project, see "Former Streeter/Poland School Buildings Slated to Become 44 Units of Veterans Housing" in the December 23-30 2021 edition of the Winchendon Courier.
The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center can be reached by phone at 978-632-9601, and is located at 268 Central Street, Gardner. You can also visit their website at www.veterans-outreach.org
With Town Meeting Approaching, Winchendon COVID Numbers Skyrocket
In the last three weeks, Winchendon's positive COVID test rate has climbed from a low 3.54, to 6.75, to 8.81 percent viral positivity as of the latest data provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, on Thursday, May 12, 2022. The Massachusetts 14-day COVID-19 viral testing positivity average is now 6.53 percent.
Nearly every town in our local ten town area reported an increase. Royalston to the west exploded from 1.32 to 9.09 percent positivity, and to the east, Ashburnham increased to double digits from 7.88 to 10.84, a rise of almost 11 percent. Westminster increased from 4.84 to 6.90 percent. Gardner was one of the few to keep things close to the week prior, only increasing a half percentage point, from 4.05 to 4.53 percent. In the Narragansett Regional School District, Templeton increased from 4.34 to 7.43 percent, and Phillipston also exploded in just one week, from testing ZERO the week prior, up to 7.29 percent. Athol, the only town larger than Winchendon in the region, increased from 3.88 to 4.76 percent, and Hubbardston just south of Gardner increased from 8.64 to 11.57 percent positivity.
Boston records a positivity rate of 5.87 percent, Worcester 3.62 percent, and Springfield 7.53 percent. 5,369,682 of Massachusetts' 6.9 million residents are now fully vaccinated, with 56 percent of residents having received at least one booster shot, according to the Mass DPH.
In the Winchendon Public Schools District, children ages 5-11 are listed as 23 percent fully vaccinated, and 25 percent partially vaccinated. Those ages 12-15 are now 42 percent fully vaccinated and 46 percent partially vaccinated. Teens ages 16-19 are now listed as 55 percent fully vaccinated and 57 percent partially vaccinated.
In closing, the Omicron BA.2 Subvariant viral strain continues to challenge public health. At the upcoming Annual Town Meeting on Monday, May 16, the Board Of Health will have a table, where both masks and COVID-19 home testing kits will be available to those attending the meeting who want them, with the test kits available while supplies last. These kits were purchased previously by the Town of Winchendon, and are still left over. The BOH feels that masks and Home Test Kits should be made available at the Annual Town Meeting, to those who want them, as a show of respect for both public health, and your own safety if so desired. They are optional, and not mandatory.
Board Of Health
Town of Winchendon
From searching for, to finding dinner!
This Heron seen seen on Friday, May 6, in a spillway drainage area across the road from Lake Dennison and public beach, patrolled the marsh and wetlands for nearly two hours searching for its evening meal, finding both small young fish and frogs. In the first photo, it can be seen walking about searching the running waters of the spillways. In the second photo, a closer look yields a very young fish almost clear in coloration, with the tail and fins hanging out the right side of the heron's beak and head poking out of the left, just before being ingested for nutrition.
Photos by Keith Kent