Voting In Presidential Election Underway Now

By SCOTT JACKSON

More than 1,400 residents cast their ballots this weekend at North Quincy High School as voting in the presidential election got underway.

Early voting will continue this week and next and residents can also submit a ballot by mail ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3.

City Clerk Nicole Crispo said 812 residents voted at the high school on Saturday, the first day of early voting, and 589 did so on Sunday, for a total of 1,401.

“It was very good,” she said of the first weekend of early voting. “Social distance and all that was a priority.”

There were lines waiting outside the school each morning, Crispo said, and a steady stream of voters for the rest of the day.

The city is using two locations for early voting this year.

Residents can vote in the council chamber on the second floor of the McIntyre Government Center (Old City Hall), 1305 Hancock St., on weekdays through next Friday, Oct. 30. The polling place there will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on those days.

Early voting will once again take place at North Quincy High School, 316 Hancock St., this coming weekend, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Voters are asked to use the Hunt Street entrance to access the school’s gym, where voting will take place.

Residents can also vote by mail during this election. As of Tuesday, nearly 23,000 ballots had been mailed to voters who requested them, and 6,000 had already been returned to the election department.

Those who have requested mail-in ballots have four ways to return them. Residents can hand deliver the ballots to the early voting locations while they are open; hand deliver them to the election office on the second floor of the City Hall annex building during business hours, including until 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3; drop them off in a kiosk located outside City Hall until 8 p.m. on Election Day; or mail them through the postal service.

Additional five-minute parking spaces are available in front of City Hall for voters. Residents can call the election office when they park to have an employee meet them curbside and pick up the ballot that way if they prefer; the number for the office is posted on the signs.

Ballots cast by mail need to be postmarked on or before the day of the election in order to be counted. Unlike the Sept. 1 primary, ballots received after Election Day will still be counted, provided they were postmarked by Nov. 3 and received at City Hall prior to 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Crispo said her office will release unofficial election results after polls close on Election Day. Final results will be available once all ballots are counted.

Mail-in ballots can be requested online at the secretary of state’s website, sec.state.ma.us. The deadline to apply is Oct. 28, but the secretary of state’s office recommends residents apply as soon as possible. Residents can also check the status of their mail-in ballot through the secretary’s website.

The deadline to register to vote is 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24. The elections office will be open at City Hall until the deadline passes and residents can also register to vote in-person at North Quincy High School Saturday while the polling place is open.

Quincy voters will cast ballots in up to seven contested races.

Topping the ballot is the race for president and vice president. The race features four candidates: incumbent Republicans Donald Trump and Mike Pence; Democratic nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris; Libertarians Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen; and Green-Rainbow candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker.

In the race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Democrat Edward Markey of Malden faces a challenge from Republican Kevin O’Connor of Dover. Markey was first elected to the Senate in a 2013 special election and won a full six-year term in 2014.

In the eighth congressional district, which includes all of Quincy, incumbent Democrat Stephen Lynch of South Boston faces a challenge from independent candidate Jonathan Lott of Stoughton. Lynch has served on Capitol Hill since winning a 2001 special election.

Two incumbent members of the state legislature who represent Quincy, both Democrats, are facing challenges this year.

Sen. John Keenan, a Hobomack Road resident, is facing a challenge from independent candidate Alexander Mendez of Shore Avenue to represent the Norfolk and Plymouth District. The district includes all of Quincy, Abington, Holbrook and Rockland as well as part of Braintree. Keenan is seeking his sixth two-year term in office. Mendez is challenging Keenan for the third straight election.

Rep. Ronald Mariano of Falls Boulevard will face Republican Stephen Tougas of Gilbert Street in the race to represent the Third Norfolk District in a rematch from 2018. The district includes all of Ward 2 in Quincy as well as Ward 4, precinct 5, and extends south to parts of Weymouth and Holbrook. Mariano was first elected to Beacon Hill in a 1991 special election and is the House majority leader.

The three other representatives who represent parts of Quincy – Bruce Ayers, Tackey Chan and Daniel Hunt, all Democrats – are unopposed. Ayers has served on Beacon Hill since 1999, Chan since 2011 and Hunt since 2014.

There are also a pair of contested Norfolk County races on the ballot in Quincy.

The race for sheriff pits incumbent Republican Jerry McDermott of Westwood against Quincy Democrat Patrick McDermott, presently the county’s register of probate. The winner of the special election will serve for two years and be eligible to run for a full six-year term in 2022. Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Jerry McDermott to the sheriff’s seat in December 2018 after the resignation of Michael Bellotti.

Three candidates are in the running for two seats on the county commission. They are incumbent Joseph Shea, a Quincy Democrat; Canton Town Moderator Richard Staiti, a Democrat; and Heather Hamilton, a Brookline selectwoman running as an independent.

Two Democrats are unopposed in their bid for county seats: Colleen Brierley of Norwood, who is running for register of probate, and Bellotti, the former sheriff from Quincy who is running for treasurer.

Democrat Christopher Iannella Jr. is running unopposed in his re-election bid for a seat on the Governor’s Council.

Residents can also vote on two ballot questions this year.

A yes vote on Question 1 would provide motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities with expanded access to wirelessly transmitted mechanical data related to their vehicles’ maintenance and repair. A no vote would make no change in the law governing access to vehicles’ wirelessly transmitted mechanical data.

A yes vote on Question 2 would create a system of ranked-choice voting in which voters would have the option to rank candidates in order of preference and votes would be counted in rounds, eliminating candidates with the lowest votes until one candidate has received a majority. A no vote would make no change in the laws governing voting and how votes are counted.

Quincy Looks At Regulations For Short-Term Rentals

By SCOTT JACKSON

An ordinance now pending before the City Council would regulate short-term rentals within Quincy.

Ward 5 Councillor Charles Phelan Jr. introduced the legislation to regulate short-term rentals in September. The ordinance would apply to short-term rentals – defined as a rental of up to 31 days – offered through companies like Airbnb and Vrbo as well as to those arranged without a booking agent. The council’s ordinance committee met Oct. 19 to begin reviewing the bill but took no action that night.

Phelan and Mayor Thomas Koch have also proposed adopting portions of state law authorizing a local 6 percent excise tax on short-term rentals plus a 3 percent community-impact fee.

As proposed, Phelan’s ordinance would prohibit short-term rentals within parts of the city zoned as Residence A, where only single-family homes are allowed by-right. Phelan said the state is facing a housing crisis and short-term rentals make it difficult for prospective homeowners to purchase properties in single-family neighborhoods.

“If you look around the city, some of our strongest neighborhoods are ones that are Residence A, and they are the ones we want to protect,” he said.

“In Residence A neighborhoods, families coming in were being outbid on single-family homes… people were buying them [because] they were going to make a business out of it, which is not why we have Residence A homes.”

Stephen Durkin, the assistant city solicitor who helped draft the ordinance, said the legislation was based on steps Boston, Cambridge and Somerville have taken to regulate short-term rentals as well as an ordinance proposed previously by Ward 4 Councillor Brian Palmucci that was not acted upon.

The ordinance would allow property owners to offer short-term rentals in three circumstances. Home-share units within the owner’s primary residence would be allowed – with occupancy limited to three bedrooms and six guests at a time. Limited-share units – in which the unit is rented while the owner is present – would be allowed with occupancy limited to two bedrooms and four guests. Rentals would also be allowed in owner-adjacent units, meaning owners of two- and three-family homes who reside on site could set aside one of those units for short-term rentals.

Operators of short-term rentals would be required to register with the city. The annual registration fee for limited-share units would be $50 and the annual fee for the other two categories would be set at $200. The owners of short-term rental properties would also be required to notify direct abutters within 30 days of registering with the city.

The Inspectional Services Department would be tasked with maintaining the registry and also enforcing the rules of the ordinance. The department would be able to assess fines of $200 per day for offering an ineligible unit as a short-term rental. Violations of the ordinance or other city codes, such as noise violations, would be subject to a $100 fine per day. The registration could be revoked for two violations within six months or three violations within 12 months.

Durkin said the proposed ordinance, like Boston’s, would not allow an owner to rent out a property they do not reside in on a short-term basis. He suggested councillors would have to determine whether or not they should be allowed as the committee continues to review the ordinance.

Durkin also suggested the council could ban short-term rentals outright, like the town of Lynnfield has done.

Several councillors who spoke during the Oct. 19 meeting said they have had issues with short-term rentals in the neighborhoods they represent.

Ward 6 Councillor William Harris said short-term rentals have turned some homes in his district into “weekend frat houses.”

“Since day one, I’ve been dealing with Airbnbs that have been a problem. It’s taxing to the people who are in the neighborhoods,” Harris said. “I support everything that we are putting forward. Anything that can be added on that can put more teeth, more bite, into this, I welcome it.”

Ward 1 Councillor David McCarthy said he has had similar issues with parties at houses rented on a short-term basis and asked Durkin what value short-term rentals provide to the city.

“What do these do for Quincy…what do they do at all if say the owner doesn’t live in Quincy and just disrupts any neighborhood with an Airbnb?” McCarthy said. “I would love to see what [Lynnfield] did in regards to how they were able to ban Airbnbs completely.”

Durkin said short-term rentals are a business and would leave the decision on their value to the councillors and mayor to decide.

Palmucci, the Ward 4 councillor, asked Durkin to provide councillors with more information on the number of short-term rentals offered presently in the city. State law requires owners of short-term rentals to register with the state.

Palmucci said he understood neighbors’ concerns about short-term rentals but wants to hear from the owners of such properties before voting on the ordinance.

“I would just like to hear a little bit more from the folks who are running these Airbnbs. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know if we are talking about professional mini-hoteliers who own an apartment building and they are all Airbnbs or if we’re talking about a middle-aged couple who have a two-family and they rent out the other one,” Palmucci said.

“Especially in these difficult times with COVID, if this in any way impacts the way somebody makes money and makes a living, I would like to know how much and how much of an effect we are going to have.”

Councillor Anne Mahoney, the chairwoman of the ordinance committee, said it would be important to hear both perspectives.

“What Councillor Palmucci is a great starting point to be able to come back and discuss how many people are registered and to take a look at it from a different direction so we’re looking at it from both sides of the issue as we are trying to create an ordinance that is protective of our neighborhoods but also conducive for the people who are doing it right,” Mahoney said.

A public hearing was held prior to the committee meeting. One resident, John Rodophele of Grenwold Road, said he supported the ordinance because it would provide the city with additional tax revenue.

Palmucci said three people – two residents who live near short-term rentals and one operator of such a rental – submitted letters ahead of the meeting.

Boston Man Facing Gun, Drug Charges

By SCOTT JACKSON

A 36-year-old Boston man is facing gun and drug charges after Quincy police say they found more than 300 grams of crack cocaine following a traffic stop.

Police said an officer was on duty shortly after noon on Sunday with his canine partner when he randomly queried a black Volkswagen Jetta, which listed as revoked for insurance purposes. At that time, the officer activated his emergency blue lights and sirens and conducted a motor vehicle stop in the area of 277 Copeland St. A second officer arrived on scene to assist.

During his conversation with the operator, now identified as 36-year-old Rashar Williams of Boston, the officer observed, in plain view, a large heat-sealed bag on the rear passenger floor mat, police said. This bag contained a green leafy substance, which the officer immediately recognized as marijuana, weighing approximately one pound. The officer asked Williams to exit the vehicle as he learned that Williams was unlicensed and the vehicle status was revoked. He placed Williams under arrest for those charges and provided him with his Miranda warning. The officer then requested a tow for the vehicle and conducted an inventory of the vehicle per department policy.

While conducting an inventory of the vehicle, police said the officer located a gray/black duffel bag behind the driver’s seat. While opening the bag, he observed a silver revolver firearm, a black Glock gun case, a gun box, and a Nike Air Force 1 shoe box.

At that time, the officer stopped his inventory and asked QPD communications to check Williams’ license to carry (LTC) status. QPD communications informed him that Williams does not possess a valid LTC, police said.  While wearing latex gloves, the officer removed the firearm and deemed it safe. The firearm was a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum containing no rounds of ammunition. The officer then observed several pieces of an off-white rock-like substance within the shoe box, believed to be crack cocaine. Inside of the Glock gun case was a speed loader, two six-round 9 mm magazines, a twelve-round 9 mm magazine, and one box of 9 mm ammunition containing eight rounds, police said All of the magazines were loaded with 9 mm ammunition. A total of twenty-one rounds were located inside the Glock gun case.

The vehicle was towed back to the Quincy police headquarters to be further searched as the area where the vehicle was stopped was very congested and was a safety concern for all officers involved. No further contraband or weapons were found inside the vehicle, police said. The vehicle was then towed to a local facility for safe keeping. The registration plates were confiscated.

While at the station, a detective field tested the off-white rock-like substance. It substance tested positive for the presumptive presence of cocaine base (crack cocaine), police said. The substance weighed approximately 324 grams.

Williams is facing several charges, including unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, trafficking over 200 grams of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute Class D, possession of a firearm without an FID card, using a firearm during a felony (trafficking cocaine), illegal possession of ammunition, improperly secured firearm, and possession of a large capacity feeding device.

Arraignment information was not immediately available Monday.

The owner of the vehicle was issued a citation via mail and summonsed for the following: revoked registration, uninsured motor vehicle, and allowing unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Baker Proposes $45.5 Billion Budget

By SCOTT JACKSON

Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday unveiled his proposed $45.5 billion state budget for the current fiscal year.

Massachusetts began the current fiscal year, FY21, on July 1 without a budget amid the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers have passed a series of one-month budget to keep government running in the interim.

The proposed budget introduced by the governor on Wednesday represents a $900 million increase over the FY21 budget he submitted to the legislature earlier this year.

The proposed budget includes no tax increases.

“The idea of going back to taxpayers given their own situation just didn’t seem like the right thing to do,” Baker said.

The governor later stated he would veto a tax increase should the legislature approve one.

Baker is proposing to withdraw up to $1.35 billion from the state’s stabilization fund, also known as the rainy day fund, to help pay for his proposed spending plan. There is $3.5 billion in the stabilization fund presently.

“The rainy day fund is there to support services when it’s raining, and I think most people would agree it’s raining,” Baker said.

The amount withdrawn from the stabilization fund could be reduced if taxes or other revenue comes in higher than anticipated, he added.

The proposed new budget would give cities and towns no less in local aid than they received in fiscal year 2020, according to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

Baker said he expects the legislature to approve a one-month budget to cover spending for the month of November, and then to approve a final budget for him to review by Thanksgiving.

Baker Urges Continued Caution Around Coronavirus

By SCOTT JACKSON

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday said the state is prepared for a rise in COVID-19 cases during the coming months and urged residents to remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus.

“There is no question that there will be more cases this fall. That prediction was made last spring by researchers and public health experts,” Baker said during an hour-long State House press conference.

“We needed to be prepared to identify those cases early, keep our health system strong and protect the most vulnerable among us from the uptick. We’ve done the work, we’re prepared to respond to this virus like never before, but our preparations are of little use without the people of Massachusetts counting to do their part.”

Residents, the governor said, need to keep taking steps to stop the spread, such as social distancing and wearing face masks when necessary.

“What we need from you is continued vigilance as we head into the ninth month of fighting this virus,” he said. “Face coverings, distance and hygiene are all part of the plan.”

Baker said residents have done a good job complying with health guidance in public settings, like going to work or running errands. Such precautions also need to be followed in informal settings, like private gatherings, he stated.

“We also need your vigilance in informal settings, especially as we all move from our backyards to our living rooms and our family rooms,” Baker said.

The governor said residents who have traveled out of state or been in groups of people without masks should get tested for the virus and wear a mask at home to stop household spread.

“Stay vigilant and respect the virus,” he stated.

Baker was asked several times during his press conference if the rise in cases seen in Massachusetts in recent weeks constitutes the start of a second surge of the coronavirus. The governor said it is not.

“I don’t consider where we are to be anywhere near that,” he said. “What we have seen is a rise in cases that a lot of people predicted was going to happen months ago and we have been preparing for that.”

The governor was also asked if he would consider shutting down indoor dining, as some health experts have suggested he do, given the recent increase in cases. Baker said there is no proof the recent uptick has been caused by indoor dining; rather the increase has been driven by individuals in their 20s and 30s spending time together.

“There is no evidence that that is what’s driving our cases,” Baker said of indoor dining. “I’m not going to stop doing things just because somebody doesn’t like them. Somebody actually has to demonstrate in our data that something is actually driving cases.

“Right now, the thing that is driving cases is young people…who are spending a lot of time with each other in close quarters – apartments, rooftops, places like that. They are not social distancing and they are passing the virus around.”

While those in their 20s and 30s are less at risk from serious impacts of COVID-19 than older residents, Baker said they can spread the disease to more vulnerable individuals.

“The vast majority,” of individuals in their 20s and 30s, Baker said, “don’t get as sick as someone over the age of 60 would, but many do, and they do have the potential…to pass it along to other people in their family or in their network who are older and for whom getting the virus could be a very terrible thing.”

During his press conference, the governor outlined a number of steps the state has taken to prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases.

The state, for example, now has the capacity for 65,000 coronavirus tests per day, which will soon rise to 100,000 tests per day. The state was conducting about 2,000 tests per day in late March and 13,000 per day in May.

The state is also stockpiling personal protective equipment, or PPE, Baker said. The state has enough PPE – including masks, gowns and gloves – to last through the end of 2021, Baker said.

In addition, he said the state has a stockpile of 1,200 ventilators available, nearly twice the 675 that were used in the spring. The number of patients in the ICU peaked at 1,085 in April, for comparison.

Quincy Store Closed After COVID-19 Case

By SCOTT JACKSON

The Quincy Health Department is asking for the public’s assistance with contact tracing related to a COVID-19 case at the Fruit Basket Marketplace on Granite Street.

Anyone who was in the store between Oct. 2 and Oct. 11 is asked to contact the Health Department at 617-376-1273.

The store is working with the Health Department on the issue and will remain closed until further notice, Chris Walker, Mayor Thomas Koch’s chief of staff, said on Monday.

Board Members Concerned About Popeyes Traffic

By SCOTT JACKSON

Quincy’s Board of License Commissioners is giving a new fast food restaurant one month to address traffic concerns caused by its opening.

The board met on Tuesday to consider whether or not to grant a common victualler license to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen at 502 Southern Artery. The restaurant’s proposed hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

At their meeting Tuesday, board members chose to allow the restaurant, which specializes in fried chicken, to remain open with a temporary license until their meeting on Nov. 10 to sort out traffic issues caused by its opening on Oct. 2.

Ward 1 Councillor David McCarthy said he knew restaurant would be popular once it opened, but the backups seen on Southern Artery during the first weekend were too much.

“Everyone knew it would be popular, but we were hoping for a different picture,” he said. “We’re just asking for trouble on a road like that.”

Inspectional Services Director Jay Duca, the board’s vice chairman, said he too had expected the restaurant to be popular but not as busy as it had been. He proposed giving the restaurant one month to address the traffic concerns.

“We want all of our businesses to be successful, but not with the traffic impacts on Southern Artery in this case,” Duca said.

He noted the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2018 granted a special permit to Popeyes for the drive-through with the understanding it would not cause traffic backups on Southern Artery. That special permit could be revisited if the traffic situation does not improve, Duca said.

Christopher Harrington, the attorney representing the Popeyes franchisee, said the traffic seen over the opening weekend was caused by pent up demand from area residents who had been waiting for the restaurant to open for the past two years. That demand is typical when such a restaurant opens, he said, and should subside within three to four weeks of the opening date.

Harrington said the restaurant had agreed to hire police details to handle the traffic flow for the first two weeks and would be willing to keep those details for longer if needed.

In addition, Harrington said the restaurant is in the process of partnering with Uber Eats on a delivery service and setting up a system for online ordering, both of which he said would take pressure off the drive-through line.

In other business on Tuesday, the Board of License Commissioners:

Granted Seyha Inc. d/b/a Gong Cha a common victualler license for the premises at 7 Beale St. Manager Piseth Cheav said Gong Cha is an international bubble tea chain. The shop will offer bubble tea and other beverages.

Granted the Common Market Restaurant Group permission to alter its premises to open an additional 1,500 square feet of outdoor dining and patio space. Greg McDonald said the restaurant has been using the space for outdoor dining on a temporary basis amid the pandemic and wants to use it on a permanent basis going forward. Using the space on a permanent basis requires additional approval from state regulators.

Quincy To Waive Restaurants’ Liquor License Renewal Fees

By SCOTT JACKSON

To provide relief to one of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Quincy will not charge restaurants to renew their liquor licenses next year.

The Board of License Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved Mayor Thomas Koch’s request to waive the $2,000 renewal fee for section 12 license holders for 2021.

The mayor, in a letter to the board, thanked the licensing board and its administrative staff for working with various restaurants this summer to expand their outdoor seating areas amid the pandemic.

“I heard from a number of my counterparts across the Commonwealth that Quincy set the standard by supporting a re-opening process that was remarkably easy, efficient, and designed specifically to help, not hinder, our businesses,” he said.

With winter approaching, Koch said restaurants will face additional challenges, which is why he asked the renewal fee to be waived.

“These establishments still face a very difficult several months ahead, and waiving this $2,000 renewal fee will help make a small difference in their efforts to endure the ongoing economic consequences of these unprecedented times,” Koch said.

“As you well know, the restaurant industry is a vital component of our local economy. It provides hundreds of jobs and is the primary source of income for many of our neighbors. We have a great responsibility to give them every tool possible to succeed amid this crisis, and I believe even a small measure such as waiving renewal fees will make a real difference.”

City Clerk Nicole Crispo, the chairwoman of the licensing board, said Koch’s request was a generous gift to the city’s restaurant owners.

“I’m sure they will appreciate it,” she said.

Chris Walker, Koch’s chief of staff, said there are 99 restaurants in the city with section 12 licenses, including some with beer and wine licenses. The city will miss out on just under $200,000 by waiving next year’s renewal fees, but Walker said the city’s finances would take a greater hit if restaurants go out of business.

“The concept is to help keep people open,” he said in an email. “If we have a number of closings, the revenue hit will be a lot worse than what we take in renewal fees.”

Quincy Students Returning To Classroom Part-Time Next Week

By SCOTT JACKSON

Quincy Public Schools students in grades four through twelve are set to return to the classroom on a part-time basis next Thursday, Oct. 15.

Students in pre-kindergarten through grade three were allowed to begin the school year last month under the hybrid model, which includes in-person and remote classes, and certain high-need students at all grade levels were also given the opportunity for in-person instruction. All other students started learning remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The School Committee had targeted Tuesday, Oct. 13, as the date those students who started the year remotely could transition to the hybrid model. That has since been pushed back two days to Thursday, Oct. 15. Lauren Owens, the assistant to superintendent Kevin Mulvey, said the start date was pushed back two days because Wednesdays are fully remote days for all children except for certain high-need students.

Parents do have the option to keep their children at home where they would continue to learn remotely.

Ruth Jones, the city’s health commissioner, on Monday said ten COVID-19 cases had been reported among Quincy Public Schools students between Sept. 23 and Sunday. One teacher has also tested positive.

Mulvey, in a phone interview Monday, said five of those students were remote learners and five were hybrid learners.

The superintendent said he continues to work with Jones on plans to move to the hybrid model for all grades next week.

“She feels we’re still OK to move forward with planning. We’re taking it day-by-day,” Mulvey said. “We haven’t seen any in-school transmission, which is good.”

The district has protocols in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, he stated. Those include six feet of distancing in the classroom and a requirement that students in grades two and up and all staff wear masks. The district used those same guidelines for in-person programming offered over the summer to special education students.

“We are following all the protocols we have been following since the summer,” the superintendent said.

Mulvey said his department also notifies parents and the school community after each confirmed case.

“Our goal is to be transparent,” he said.

Jones discussed COVID-19 cases among students during the Sept. 30 School Committee meeting. She told the school board the cases seen had come from community spread or spread within families.

“We’re not seeing any transmission within the schools, which is a good thing. We are looking at community spread,” Jones said. “Some are families. You see mom positive, dad positive and then a child may be positive. There were a number of cases that are unknown where they got it. No relation.

“But we do see spread within families when we’re looking at our contract contact tracing and when we’re doing our investigation.”

Quincy has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and was designated a yellow, or moderate risk, community by the Department of Public Health on Sept. 30, with a case rate of 4.38 new cases per day per 100,000 residents over the prior two weeks. The city had previously been a green, or low risk, with fewer than four new cases per day per 100,000 residents since mid-August.

The rise in cases in recent weeks in Quincy and the rest of Massachusetts could have been caused by the return of students, including those in college, to classes and the start of fall as people spend more time indoors because of the cooler weather, Jones said Monday. But she said the majority of the increase is because some people are no longer taking steps to stop the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“I think people are getting lax or tired of wearing masks and social distancing,” Jones said. “I see a lot of people without masks on.”

Jones told the school board Sept. 30 that the move from green to yellow should not delay plans to move to hybrid learning.

“Just because we went into the yellow, I don’t think it should change our plans as far as the way we’re going forward with bringing students back,” she said, noting that other metrics need to be considered as well, including the number of cases among Quincy Public Schools staff and students, cases in students’ households, cases among city residents ages 18 and under, and the case rate in communities where QPS staff resides.

“You look at the other metrics…and it shows us that the transmission is not within schools. The transmission we’re seeing is community. And I would not not change anything right now the way that we’re planning on progressing back into four through twelve coming back hybrid.”

Committee member Paul Bregoli asked Jones why the guidelines for distancing inside schools are different than those in place for other settings. For example, Bregoli noted the state is now allowing up to ten people to sit at a table in restaurants.

“If we’re sitting ten people at a table, that’s pretty close to each other. And I think people are asking, well, if we can do that when we go out to dinner then why is it not possible for us to do that in a public school setting? And I had the same question,” Bregoli said.

Jones said many patrons who go to restaurants either live together or would otherwise spend time together, while children in schools come from different households.

“I think for the most part, if you see people going out to dinner, it’s people who are together a lot in other phases of their day or their life,” Jones said.

“In a school situation, we have many kids from different homes, different households, and the thought of having these kids too close together and then bringing that back to so many different households that we could see the transmission be much, much more widespread than in a restaurant situation. I think that’s the basis behind it.”

Bregoli also asked Jones if she would be comfortable reducing the distancing requirements in schools from six feet to three feet, which is the minimum distance required by the state. Jones said she is not ready to move from six feet.

“I’m very comfortable with six at this point and I think… the path that we’re going on is the right path. When we have the four to twelve group come back hybrid, I think that will give us a lot of information on how the schools will be able to succeed,” she said.

“We don’t want to overwhelm any resources, and this will give us some really good information of what happens when the larger group comes in.”

The district had surveyed parents in recent weeks to determine how many children would continue with remote learning and how many would move to the hybrid model. The percentage of students who will be moving to hybrid learning varies by grade level.

Grade four has the fewest students choosing the hybrid approach; 45 percent of those students will move to the hybrid model. Among fifth graders, 48 percent will move to hybrid classes.

A majority of middle schoolers will move to hybrid classes, including 58 percent of sixth graders, 56 percent of seventh graders, and 59 percent of eighth graders.

Ninth grade has the highest percentage of students moving to hybrid classes, with 61 percent of those students doing so. Less than half of other high schoolers – 49 percent of sophomores, 46 percent of juniors and 47 percent of seniors – will move to hybrid.

Parents of children in kindergarten to grade three had the same choice as well; 56 percent of kindergarteners are learning through the hybrid model as of this week, as are 53 percent of first graders, 54 percent of second graders and 50 percent of third graders.

Transition To Step II Of Phase III For Lower Risk Communities Effective Oct. 5th

The Baker-Polito Administration Tuesday announced that effective Monday, October 5th, lower risk communities will be permitted to move into Step II of Phase III of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan. All other communities will remain in Phase III, Step I. Governor Charlie Baker also issued a revised gatherings order. Industry specific guidance and protocols for a range of Phase I, II, and III businesses will also be updated.

Phase III, Step II:

On May 18, the Baker-Polito Administration released a four-phased plan to reopen the economy based on sustained improvements in public health data.

Last month, the Administration began releasing data on the average daily COVID cases per 100,000 residents, average percent positivity, and total case counts, for all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns.

Lower risk communities are defined as cities and towns that have not been a “red” community in any of the last three weekly Department of Public Health (DPH) weekly reports.

Effective Oct. 5, a limited number of sectors will be eligible to reopen, with restrictions, in Step II of Phase III for lower risk communities only:

  • Indoor performance venues will be permitted to open with 50% capacity with a maximum of 250 people.
  • Outdoor performance venue capacity will increase to 50% with a max of 250 people.
  • For arcades and indoor and outdoor recreation businesses, additional Step II activities like trampolines, obstacle courses, roller rinks and laser tag will also be permitted to open and capacity will increase to 50%.
  • Fitting rooms will be permitted to open in all types of retail stores.
  • Gyms, museums, libraries and driving and flight schools will also be permitted to increase their capacity to 50%.

Revised Gatherings Order:

  • The limit for indoor gatherings remains at a maximum of 25 people for all communities.
  • Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards will remain at a maximum of 50 people for all communities.
  • Outdoor gatherings at event venues and in public settings will have a limit of 50 people in Step I communities, and a limit of 100 people in lower risk, Step II communities.