Dover looks at ways to deal with coronavirus
DOVER - The Dover Selectboard held its regularly scheduled meeting at Dover Town Hall on Tuesday to provide more space for attendees to spread out. At the meeting, emergency coordinator Rich Werner updated the public about the steps the town is taking to prepare and respond to COVID-19 (coronavirus).
“It’s getting a little hairy out there,” he said. “I joked earlier that it looked like we’re in the middle of a Stephen King novel. Who ever would have thought there wouldn’t be a Saint Patrick’s parade in South Boston. Who ever would have thought Mount Snow would have closed. It’s some big news. So the town is on top of it.”
Werner said at an emergency management meeting held that morning, department heads and town officials had discussed every angle of the town’s response. In the coming days, the town will be establishing a phone number that residents can call for information and assistance. People can also call 211 for information and assistance.
The town’s school, although ordered closed by the state, is providing meals for students. “They’re doing breakfast and lunch. When you get your lunch you get breakfast for the next day.” Meals can be picked up at Dover School between the hours of 11:30 am and 12:30 pm daily. For those who are not able to pick up meals, delivery can be arranged through the school.
Werner said currently, food and fuel supplies are not a concern. However, he said the town is committed to getting food and other supplies to those in need. “The most important thing is, if there are people who need help and people who are self-quarantining, let us know what we can do,” he said. “We want to make sure that nobody goes hungry and everyone has the basics. The town is working to look out for everybody’s best interest.”
Becky Arabella, coordinator for Support Services at Home (SASH), said SASH will help coordinate getting food to those in need. “I spoke to the executive director (of SASH) and she is willing to make sure we can get all the food we need here,” she said. “We’re an agency for the food bank in Brattleboro. All rules have been waived. If we need food, we can get it for anyone.”
Werner said it is important for the public not to panic, and to know that systems are being put in place to keep people safe. “The power company announced no one will have their power shut off. I think a lot of people are trying to work with everybody. We ask that nobody panic. It’s not the end of the world, but it is going to take precautions.”
He noted that during periods of social isolation, establishing a “buddy system” — having someone you can check on and who can check on you — can be useful, and that if anyone knows of individuals who may need a buddy or may need to be checked on by officials, to please let him know. “During Irene we had a group of 30 we used to go see. We would check on them daily.”
Oné Smith asked whether second-home owners who are in town are also eligible for help. Werner said yes, the governor has committed that everyone will be treated. Arabella echoed that. “It doesn’t matter who they are,” she said. “We will feed them.”
“And everyone will be treated,” said Werner. “There are just concerns because there’s a finite number of beds available. They feel a lot of people are going to get the virus. What they don’t want to do is have a big spike. They’re trying to flatten the curve so that the medical system can take care of everybody and not be overwhelmed but keep it so that it stays doable.”
To that end, Werner said Deerfield Valley Rescue had said that morning that it currently feels prepared to handle patients. “Rescue is feeling confident they won’t be overwhelmed but again, a week down the road it could change.”
As of Wednesday morning, Dover’s town offices are open to the public, but signs have been placed at all entrances asking those who feel under the weather in any way to not enter the building and instead call the office for assistance. Those who are working in the office are doing so in as much isolation within the building as they can.
At Tuesday morning’s emergency management meeting, department heads discussed who may be able to handle each other’s duties should they become incapacitated. Minutes for that meeting show that Tabi Freedman, the town’s zoning and health administrator, who is also the town’s de facto technology expert, is working to get town employees remote access to their work, which is not currently stored on the cloud.
Freedman noted several WiFi hotspots that are available in town should people need to drive to obtain internet access. They include the Dover Town Park, the town office parking lot, the school parking lot, the town hall parking lot, and the library. Freedman said she is working on boosting the signal in the Town Hall parking lot. “I am going to see if I can up the speed and get additional resources for this building or parking lot. It works but is a little bit slow.”
Selectboard chair Josh Cohen said he is working on how the town can hold public meetings remotely, using computers and phones to host conference calls or video chats. “I have a feeling our April 7 meeting is likely to be virtual,” he said.
Werner noted that the entire situation is ever-changing, and said that what is true now may shift in the days ahead. “It’s going to be really fluid. Probably tomorrow there will be something new.”
Several resources are available to keep up with the latest guidelines and state orders, including dialing 211 and visiting https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-cor.... Dover’s town website is also being kept up to date.