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Sharp questions about in-person meeting

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The following email was sent by Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21 Town Meeting member, to Town Moderator Greg Christiana and copied to all Town Meeting members. YourArlington received a copy from another source and is republishing it with the author's permission.

Hi Greg, Hope you are well. I do appreciate the impulse to hold Town Meeting in-person, but I am afraid that the current plan to keep everyone safe just doesn't go far enough.

Looking into an indoor air filtration system is not enough. We would want a system installed and working before we return to Town Hall. A recommendation that we wear masks is not enough. It should be mandatory. Providing home test kits is not enough. A negative self-test should be mandatory before each meeting, not optional. All attendees should be required to have all shots and boosters to gain entry

Without these basic protections in place, I think holding in-person meetings is unnecessary, reckless, dangerous, and discriminates against those TMMs who fall into any of the several high-risk categories. For example, I fall into at least two high-risk categories: I am 73 and considered at risk for my age, and I have a mild form of asthma and am susceptible to lung infections.

I feel that your plan puts many of us in an untenable situation: we must risk our health in order to fulfill our TM duties.

I hope you give this plan further consideration and, at the very least, allow a hybrid meeting so those of us justifiably fearful of an in-person meeting would be able to attend virtually as we’ve done for three years.


This letter was published Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

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Comments

Guest - Nancy Bloom on Tuesday, 07 February 2023 22:29
Air filtration system?

I would like to know more about the air filtration system and if it were REALLY to be installed PRIOR to Town Meeting 2023. If the air were filtered, staying in one space with well over 250 people for three hours per session, I would be a little less worried - especially if many of us wore masks. As it has been suggested for several years now that we should refrain from being indoors with large groups, many of us are much more fearful of transmission than before COVID reared its ugly head! Being together with people (and sitting very close!) would really be different - after the rules/suggestions we have been living with for almost three years! And if we are to remain further apart, the whole 'vibe' of being close to other TMMs - and able to ask questions if you missed something - would be lost, even if we could see each other.

Nancy

I would like to know more about the air filtration system and if it were REALLY to be installed PRIOR to Town Meeting 2023. If the air were filtered, staying in one space with well over 250 people for three hours per session, I would be a little less worried - especially if many of us wore masks. As it has been suggested for several years now that we should refrain from being indoors with large groups, many of us are much more fearful of transmission than before COVID reared its ugly head! Being together with people (and sitting very close!) would really be different - after the rules/suggestions we have been living with for almost three years! And if we are to remain further apart, the whole 'vibe' of being close to other TMMs - and able to ask questions if you missed something - would be lost, even if we could see each other. Nancy
Mark Kaepplein on Tuesday, 07 February 2023 05:57
Covid is no more dangerous than anything else that might kill you

Let me offer one simple fact to allay people's fears of Covid. Covid won't kill you any more than anything else.
In the second half of January 2023, the average age of people who died in Massachusetts of Covid was 80 years old. This has been consistent since the pandemic began. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting

For reference, "Since 2006, the Massachusetts life expectancy has remained close to 80 years, with 2019 being the highest yet." [81.1] https://www.mass.gov/doc/2019-death-report/download

Let me offer one simple fact to allay people's fears of Covid. Covid won't kill you any more than anything else. In the second half of January 2023, the average age of people who died in Massachusetts of Covid was 80 years old. This has been consistent since the pandemic began. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting For reference, "Since 2006, the Massachusetts life expectancy has remained close to 80 years, with 2019 being the highest yet." [81.1] https://www.mass.gov/doc/2019-death-report/download
Grant Cook on Monday, 06 February 2023 19:17
COVID precautions for 2023 TM

Well, the body can decide on its own rules, but I don't see a "vaccine mandate" for any attendees being wise or possibly even legal, especially since there's no vaccine mandate active in other areas of government that I can see. We haven't required influenza vaccination, which also has an outsize impact on the elderly.

And since even full vaccination can allow some level of transmission of COVID, it could not even be that useful.

Self-testing seems like a feasible request, but that would mean procuring about 250 test kits a week to supply to TM members, Town officials, other staff, and ACMI folks. Since most kits have two tests, each member could use one for Monday and one for Wednesday. 2022 TM went about 7 weeks, so 1750 test kits. N95 Masks would also need to be supplied, though perhaps most members would supply their own.

Grant

Well, the body can decide on its own rules, but I don't see a "vaccine mandate" for any attendees being wise or possibly even legal, especially since there's no vaccine mandate active in other areas of government that I can see. We haven't required influenza vaccination, which also has an outsize impact on the elderly. And since even full vaccination can allow some level of transmission of COVID, it could not even be that useful. Self-testing seems like a feasible request, but that would mean procuring about 250 test kits a week to supply to TM members, Town officials, other staff, and ACMI folks. Since most kits have two tests, each member could use one for Monday and one for Wednesday. 2022 TM went about 7 weeks, so 1750 test kits. N95 Masks would also need to be supplied, though perhaps most members would supply their own. Grant
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