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New Swampscott emergency order stricter than state guidelines

By David Mclellan | May 22, 2020

SWAMPSCOTT — The Select Board and Board of Health have passed a new emergency order for Swampscott residents. In some places, it is stricter than the state-level “reopening plan” outlined by Gov. Charlie Baker this past Monday.

The order is  more restrictive than the state when it comes to COVID-19 Control Plans for businesses that are reopening. At the state level, a COVID-19 Control Plan does not have to be submitted for approval, but must be put up at the business and readily visible to the public. At the town level, the plans must be submitted to the town for approval prior to reopening, addressing hygiene protocol, cleaning, and social distancing.

“All businesses and places of worship will be required to submit a work safety plan for approval of the town of Swampscott prior to opening,” Board of Health Chairwoman Marianne Hartmann said. “We say this not to impede any place from opening, you will be able to open on time. We’re not
going to hold anybody up from opening.”

“It’s a very quick and easy process. You just check a box,” Hartmann said.

Originally, the order restricted gatherings of any number of people in public. The no-congregation part of the order received the most apprehension among members of the Select Board. Select Board members Polly Titcomb and Don Hause did not openly disagree with the order, but questioned its purpose. That portion of the order was later revised to allow congregations of less than 10 people, which is in line with state-level advisories and regulations.

In addition, the town continues its ban on reusable bags in grocery stores, and masks are still required in businesses, places of worship and common areas in both multi-family and office buildings.

In other places, the newest Swampscott order has loosened restrictions on residents. For example, the town’s stay-at-home order has been lifted, although it is strongly recommended people stay home as much as possible, in line with the state’s “safer-at-home” advisory.

“Staying home is obviously the safest thing to do, especially for at-risk populations, but we’re not saying there’s a stay-at-home order, there is a stay-at-home request,” Hartmann said. “Everyone’s been great in town working with us, and we’re hoping people will continue to do so.”

The Swampscott order will remain in place until a “joint judgment” by the Select Board and Board of Health that a public health emergency no longer exists.

For information on the state’s reopening plan, visit www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts. For a full reading of Swampscott’s newest order, visit www.swampscottma.gov/sites/swampscottma/files/uploads/emergency_order_4.pdf. To find a COVID-19 safety plan to submit to the town to reopen a business, visit www.swampscottma.gov.

This article has been updated to reflect that Swampscott does now allow congregations, as long as they are fewer than 10 people. This regulation is in line with state-level advisories and orders on COVID-19.