WENHAM— The Towns of Wenham and Hamilton, as well as the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District announce that town offices and schools in both communities will close to the public beginning on March 16 and reopen on Monday, March 30 at the earliest.
The closures are a proactive step by the communities to limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). There are currently no confirmed or presumptive cases of the virus in either community.
“After careful deliberation and extensive discussion, we have concluded that these steps are the best we can take to limit the possible spread of COVID-19 to our communities and keep our residents healthy and safe,” Wenham Town Administrator Anthony Ansaldi said.
“We fully understand the inconvenience and challenges this may create for our communities, but ultimately we believe now is the time to act in the best interests of our residents to ensure that we are doing our absolute best to limit the longer-term impact this virus could have,” Hamilton Town Manager Joseph J. Domelowicz Jr. said.
Town Offices and Services
Beginning Monday, March 16, Wenham and Hamilton’s Town Halls will both be closed to the public, though staff will continue to work in both communities. Residents should plan to conduct their business with the towns either by email or over the phone.
While the Town Clerk’s offices in both communities will not be generally open to the public, they will each be available by telephone during set “office hours”, and, when and as needed, will seek to provide any essential services. The Towns’ shared Recreation Department will not host any programming until at least Monday, March 30. The Hamilton-Wenham Public Library will likewise be closed for two weeks.
As part of his State of Emergency declaration, Gov. Charlie Baker also signed an executive order temporarily modifying the state’s opening meeting law to accommodate remote participation by board and committee members, as well as remote options for members of the public wishing to oversee such meetings. The Towns of Wenham and Hamilton will provide details on these remote access means online, but both communities’ Boards of Health have urged their peer committees to cancel or postpone meetings to the extent doing so is feasible.
For information about specific board and committee meetings, residents should visit individual board pages on their respective town’s website.
Residents who need to conduct essential business at their respective Town Halls should call ahead to the department they need to speak with.
Residents are encouraged to visit their respective community’s website, wenhamma.gov or hamiltonma.gov. The Town of Hamilton’s direct phone number is 978-468-5570. The Town of Wenham’s direct phone number is 978-468-5520 ext. 2.
Hamilton-Wenham public schools are closed on Friday, March 13, and will remain closed through the following two weeks, opening on Monday, March 30, at the earliest.
All school activities are cancelled, and school buildings will not be open to the public during the closure, as staff will be working to thoroughly clean and sanitize the facilities.
“Student and staff wellbeing have been and will continue to be at the forefront of all decisions we make going forward, which is why we are taking proactive steps now to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus on our communities” Interim Superintendent Julie Kukenberger said. “Town and school leadership have been working in close coordination in recent weeks and are in firm agreement that we need to take decisive action before — not after — there is a confirmed case in either of our towns.”
School field trips through April 3 are cancelled or postponed. Two domestic overnight trips — to Nashville and Orlando — are cancelled, and all international travel is cancelled. Teachers also will not be attending any out-of-district professional development programming.
The HWRSD is finalizing a plan to ensure that all students currently enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program will be provided meals. The district will communicate with families directly.
Councils on Aging and Food Pantry
Both communities’ councils on aging will continue to provide essential services to residents, including meal deliveries and well-being check-ins, but all other in-person programming is cancelled or suspended through at least March 27. Seniors who know they are homebound are encouraged to contact their community’s Council on Aging directly to have their needs met.
Both Councils on Aging would like to stress to residents that if there is a senior in their neighborhood they are concerned about for any reason, please contact their town’s COA.
Hamilton COA: 978-468-5595
Wenham COA: 978-468-5529
For seniors in Hamilton, the Hamilton COA will be open as a drop-in center for healthy residents, and senior transportation will continue to operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For seniors in Wenham, the Wenham Council on Aging will be open as a drop in center for all healthy residents and our senior transportation will be available Monday through Friday 9 a.m to 4 p.m.
The Wenham COA will continue to provide essential services like transportation 978-468-5534 to residents and will be taking calls and responding to resident needs. Meals-on-wheels deliveries are handled by the Hamilton COA and they will continue to be delivered through their volunteers following their own protocol for those deliveries.
The Acord Food pantry will remain open, and COAs from both communities strongly discourage the establishment of community “food brigades,” as doing so creates an unnecessary risk for an already at-risk group. Non-professional food preparation creates the risk of food-borne illness due to improper preparation techniques, which could be compounded by the potential spread of COVID-19 through contaminated food.
Any residents seeking to support their community’s seniors should reach out to their respective COAs at the numbers listed above.
Seniors and those with chronic health conditions are the most at-risk for serious illness caused by the coronavirus, and are urged to take liberal precautions to mitigate their risk of becoming sick. Anyone who believes they may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their primary care physician.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that seniors and those with chronic health conditions are the most at-risk for serious illness caused by the coronavirus; they urge that those in this vulnerable population take appropriate precautions to mitigate their risk of becoming sick. As has been widely suggested, any person who believes they may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their primary care physician or health care provider.
Reported symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and respiratory illness, including pneumonia in severe cases.
Local, state and federal health officials are encouraging residents to take the following precautions to prevent infectious diseases, such as the flu and COVID-19, from spreading:
- Washing hands with soap and water, scrubbing hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol.
- Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces, including phones, tablets, keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, faucet handles, toilet flushers, countertops.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as ChapStick, water bottles, eating utensils, etc.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing and then wash hands.
- Community members should stay home and avoid contact with others when
experiencing flu-like symptoms including a fever of 100.4 and should remain home until symptom-free and/or fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
The DPH is in regular communication with local Boards of Health, healthcare providers, hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools and local government officials. COVID-19 information is posted on the DPH website and updated regularly. In addition, the DPH has created a Public Health Fact Sheet.
The CDC also provides up-to-date information regarding confirmed cases and travel advisories on its website.
Locally, residents may contact the Wenham Board of Health at 978-468-5520 Ext. 4 or the Hamilton Board of Health at 978-468-5579.