The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday that West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes collected from Quincy.
There was one WNV-positive mosquito sample (pool) identified from samples collected Aug. 4. The City of Quincy remains at a low risk, according to the state Department of Public Health.
To date, for 2020 the state has reported 30-plus WNV-positive mosquito pools from five counties and one human case from Middlesex County.
While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe infection. WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus. The City of Quincy Health Department and the MDPH recommends that the public continue to take action to avoid mosquito bites and reduce mosquito populations around their home and neighborhoods.
- Limit your time outdoors during peak periods of mosquito activity (dusk and dawn), or, if you must remain outdoors, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
- Use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET or Picaridin. Oil of lemon eucalyptus may also be considered. Products with permethrin should only be used on clothing. Always follow the directions on the label. Repellents should not be used on children younger than two months of age. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
- Take special care to cover up the arms and legs of children playing outdoors. When you bring a baby outdoors, cover the baby’s carriage or playpen with mosquito netting.
- Fix any holes in your screens and make sure they are tightly attached to your doors and windows.
- Remove any standing water around your home that is available for mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes will begin to breed in any puddle or standing water that lasts more than four days. Make sure water does not collect and stagnate in ceramic pots, trash cans, recycling containers, old tires, wading pools, bird baths, etc. Remove leaves and debris that may prevent drainage of roof gutters.
While the Quincy Health Department continues to work closely with the MDPH, locally the city is actively working with the Norfolk County Mosquito Control regarding the control of mosquitoes in Quincy. More information is available at https://www.quincy.ma.gov. Fact sheets regarding mosquito control and personal protection are available at the health department.
Mayor Thomas P. Koch Tuesday (Aug. 11) appointed 22-year Quincy Fire Department veteran Joseph C. Jackson, Jr. as the city’s new Fire Chief.
Jackson, a deputy chief since 2010 and acting fire chief since the retirement of Chief John Cadegan earlier this year, was sworn in by City Clerk Nicole Crispo in a brief private ceremony outside of a local nursing home where his mother is a resident.
“Quite simply, there is no one better suited to be Fire Chief than Joe Jackson,” said Mayor Koch. “He loves this city, he loves his brothers on the job, and he’s made it his life’s work to protect the lives and property of this community. Firefighting is quite literally in his blood, and the safety of our citizens is firmly in good hands.”
Jackson is the son of the late Joseph C. Jackson, Sr., who served on the Quincy Fire Department for 42 years before retiring in 1993 as a deputy chief and one of the most respected officers in the department’s history.
“I’m sure dad is looking down smiling right now,” Mayor Koch said at the ceremony.
Added Chief Jackson:
“I am deeply humbled by this opportunity, and I look forward to helping make the department the very best it can be in the coming years,” Jackson said.
Mayor Koch appointed Jackson under a process through the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission called an Assessment Center. Under this process, an independent panel of retired public safety leaders administer evaluation tests and then use the scores to make a recommendation for appointment to the Mayor.
Jackson was appointed a firefighter in 1998 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2002; captain in 2007, and deputy chief in 2010.
Thomas Bowes, the president of Quincy Firefighters Local 792, called Jackson a “firefighter’s firefighter with a deep understanding and appreciation of the job.”
“We know the safety of the citizens of Quincy and our members is in good hands, and we look forward to working with Chief Jackson in the coming years to continue to help move the job forward in the right direction,” Bowes said.
Governor Charlie Baker on Friday (Aug. 7) announced a new set of initiatives aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, especially in higher risk communities that have seen a recent uptick in cases. While Massachusetts has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since May, there has been a slight uptick in certain communities in recent days.
The Administration announced a set of initiatives Aug. 7, including stricter statewide rules for public and private gatherings and targeted community guidance. The Administration also announced that, starting next week, additional reporting for town-by-town data will be published weekly to show the spread of COVID-19 at a community level. Additionally, previously announced free COVID-19 testing in 17 communities has been extended through Sept. 12.
Governor Baker is signing an updated gatherings order, effective Tuesday, August 11, which will:
- Reduce the limit on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50 people (indoor gatherings limit will remain at 25 people)
- Apply these limits to all types of gatherings, on both public and private property
- Require face coverings where more than 10 people from different households will be mixing.
Due to the recent increase in positive cases, step two of phase III of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan has been postponed indefinitely.
Restaurant rules have been updated to state that alcoholic beverages may only be served for on-site consumption if accompanied by orders for food prepared on-site. The administration will be taking measures to ensure that bars masquerading as restaurants will be closed.
Public safety officials, including state and local law enforcement, have the jurisdiction to enforce these orders and event hosts in violation of these orders will be subject to fines or cease and desist orders.
To read the gatherings order, click here.
To read the updated restaurant protocols, click here.
Cross-Agency COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team:
The Administration also announced a targeted cross-agency COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team that will be responsible for ramping up enforcement statewide and coordinating local intervention efforts at the local level in higher risk COVID-19 communities.
Communities will be designated as higher risk COVID-19 communities based on public health data, including but not limited to rising trends for new cases and the percentage of positive COVID tests.
Member agencies include the Executive Office and Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), who will serve as coordinators of the team, the Command Center, the Massachusetts State Police (MSP), the Department of Labor Standards (DLS), the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL), the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Division of Local Services (DLS), the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) and the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS).
Stop the Spread:
Last month, the Administration launched the Stop the Spread initiative, which provides free testing to residents in targeted communities throughout the Commonwealth.
There are currently sites in 17 communities: Agawam, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Framingham, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, Taunton, and Worcester.
The initiative is a data-driven focused effort to reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in communities that are above the state average in total cases, positive test rate, and have experienced a decline in testing levels since April. These sites are open to all residents of the Commonwealth.
On Aug. 7th, the Administration announced the extension of free testing in these 17 communities through Sept. 12.
Statewide Enforcement and Intervention will include:
- Targeted interventions and inspections by a range of member agencies, including Local Services, Labor Standards, DPH, MSP and ABCC, coordinated by EOPSS and MEMA.
- Increased enforcement, including fines, of sector guidance for businesses to ensure businesses and residents are aware of and following COVID-19 orders.
- Support for ABCC and local licensing boards in exercising their existing authority to fine restaurants or suspend or cancel liquor licenses when restaurants do not comply with required COVID-19 safety measures.
- Targeted public messaging campaign to alert residents of higher risk COVID communities (road signs, PSAs, etc.).
- Technical support to local government officials to support enhanced local COVID-19 prevention efforts such as assistance in accessing CARES Act funding.
- Potential restrictions or shutdowns for parks, playgrounds, businesses or other entities and locations believed to be contributing to the COVID-19 spread in higher risk COVID-19 communities.
- Additional resources for public health support such as testing, tracing and quarantining.
For more information click here.
As Massachusetts continues to work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the House and Senate have agreed to continue meeting in formal sessions past the usual deadline of July 31st. Traditionally the legislature will recess for the fall at the end of the legislative cycle as dictated by the Joint Rules.
Last week the branches agreed to suspend Joint Rule 12A to allow them to continue to deliberate on crucial pieces of legislation debated before July 31st that are currently before conference committees. The extension will also allow the legislature to tackle ongoing revenue concerns and public health challenges. With much in-flux on the federal level including questions of whether additional funding will be provided to states to cover their budgets, Massachusetts lawmakers felt it imperative that they extend session to continue to work on these important issues.
“This rule change will allow us to come back in for formal session this year as needed in order to meet the legislature’s constitutional duty of passing a balanced budget, as well as deal with major issues as they arise.” said House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano.
“COVID-19 has greatly changed all of our lives, including impacting the Legislature’s schedule,” said Rep. Tackey Chan. “By extending session, it will allow us to continue to deliberate on critical issues such as the State’s Budget and climate change legislation, as we grapple with the ongoing public health concerns associated with the virus. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on these important matters.”
This is the first time the House and Senate have agreed to extend formal session past the July 31st deadline. Currently, there are many pieces of legislation before a House-Senate Conference Committee including the transportation bond bill, information technology bond bill, police reform bill, telemedicine bill, and the economic development bill. By extending past the deadline, the legislature will be able to prepare and remain ready to face the challenges that come before the Commonwealth.
“The Legislature passed several important bills in the final days of session, including an interim FY21 budget, a Covid-19 supplemental budget, election safeguards, and protections against violence to females,” said Sen. John Keenan. “However, due to the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, we need more time to work on bills that will protect our most vulnerable populations and help the Commonwealth get through these challenging times. Once the federal government takes action, we will have to finalize our state budget, and we also hope to take action on important economic development, climate, healthcare, and racial justice legislation.”
“While we have accomplished a great deal during this legislative session, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still more work ahead of us,” said Rep. Bruce Ayers. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Quincy delegation and our collegaues in government on important issues like the state budget, climate legislation, and whatever other initiatives may prove necessary to provide for the health and safety of all our residents.”
By SCOTT JACKSON
Yakoo, North Quincy High School’s mascot for the past 63 years, will have a new look inspired by the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War and will no longer use Native American imagery.
Mayor Thomas Koch and Dr. Allan Yacubian, the original inspiration for the mascot, unveiled changes to the character Monday at City Hall. Koch said it would be up to the administration at North Quincy High School to determine how long the transition to the new image would take and whether the school keeps its team name, the Raiders, or switches to a something else, such as the Patriots.
The old Yakoo featured a caricature of Yacubian, who is of Armenian descent, in Native American attire, including a feathered headdress, and carrying a hammer in one hand and an NQ flag in the other. The new logo keeps the caricature of Yacubian but now portrays him wearing a black tricorne hat and a black tunic with red facings. The logo displayed Monday at City Hall shows the new mascot with a scroll in one hand, but Yacubian said that would be changed to a bell; the flag will stay in the other hand.
Koch, a 1981 North Quincy graduate, said the old Yakoo had been a source of pride for the school since its adoption in 1957, but he and Yacubian had been discussing changes to the mascot for the past several years, recognizing that times have changed.
“Anyone who went through North always looked at that symbol as one of great pride representing a strong spirit, a strong work ethic, and one of excellence. I think over the years it has really been a symbol of pride for the school,” Koch said.
“But, recognizing over times things change and there are opinions on things and how people can be offended, I think it was fair that….we had some chats going back a couple years at least about how we should proceed with Mr. Yakoo.”
Yacubian, a longtime benefactor of the city’s schools, said he was happy with the new iteration of the mascot.
“Yakoo is now 63 years old and in the 63 years has done nothing to shame North Quincy High School or anything to do with the city of Quincy. But, like everything, things change and it is time to do something,” said Yacubian, a 1958 North Quincy graduate who turns 80 on Aug. 17.
“We’ve come up with something that I think is going to be very, very good and I’m very happy that it’s being done.”
Yacubian said the original artist who drew Yakoo, Pete Fredericksen, first suggested changing the mascot’s look six years ago, but Yacubian was worried about letting alumni down. Other iterations of the mascot had been considered in addition to the Revolutionary War soldier, including a pirate, Yacubian said; another proposal would have seen the mascot dressed as a firefighter.
There had been several attempts to change or replace Yakoo since the 1990s because of its use of Native American imagery. Competing petitions were launched on Change.org regarding North Quincy’s mascot this summer. The petition to replace Yakoo garnered more than 12,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon while more than 1,800 people had signed on to a petition to keep the mascot.
Koch on Monday said he had already reached out to Faries Gray, a leader of the Massachusett Tribe, about the revised logo.
“He really loves the new mascot – the new Yakoo – so we’re pleased about that,” Koch said.
By SCOTT JACKSON
Massachusetts lawmakers continue to grapple with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic but will maintain local aid to cities and towns in the current fiscal year and even plan to increase funding for schools.
The legislature has yet to approve a budget for fiscal year 2021, which began July 1, relying instead short-term budgets to keep the state open in the interim. Despite the uncertainty, Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday said he and legislative leaders have agreed not to cut local aid in the current fiscal year.
“Obviously, we’re working to fully understand the impact of COVID-19 and how it will affect the commonwealth’s own fiscal situation. That has caused delay with respect to the release of a final and full fiscal 2021 budget, however, we do know that cities and towns rely on the state’s budget so they can have clarity with respect to state aid to schools and other general government services,” the governor said.
“For fiscal 2021, our administration and the legislature are committed to providing cities and towns no less than the fiscal year 2020 funding for unrestricted general government aid and school aid funding.”
In addition, Baker said he and legislative leaders have agreed to provide an additional $107 million in Chapter 70 money, which is used for education, to municipalities.
“This agreement, in addition to the federal aid dollars distributed to all cities and towns, adds up to well over $1 billion in new funds to ensure schools can fund the changes that they need to make to teach kids this fall,” Baker said
The extra $1 billion local communities will receive, the governor added, will more than fully fund the Student Opportunity Act that lawmakers approved in January.
By SCOTT JACKSON
Gov. Charlie Baker warned that large gatherings seen lately throughout Massachusetts are a “recipe for disaster” that could help the coronavirus spread.
“Unfortunately, these gatherings are resulting in new COVID case clusters and ramping up the spread of the virus,” Baker said. “These lapses in judgement, these missed opportunities to keep the door that we all worked so hard to close, shut, are contributing to a slight but important rise in positive cases here in Massachusetts.”
The Department of Public Health is investigating clusters arising from a large party for lifeguards in Falmouth, a house party in Chatham, a high school graduation party held in Chelmsford, a large house party in Wrentham, a party aboard a ship in Boston Harbor, a 90-person prom party in Cohasset and an unauthorized football camp in Weymouth, Baker said.
Marylou Sudders, the state’s health and human services secretary, said the Weymouth football camp included participants from 17 communities. Several of the individuals associated with that gathering have since tested positive for COVID-19.
Baker said transmission of the coronavirus is more likely in large groups of people who are neither wearing masks nor practicing social distancing.
“This behavior dramatically increases the likelihood of infecting other people and this virus can and in many cases does take off like wildfire,” he said. “The situations I just recapped are a recipe for disaster and need to stop if we want to continue to re-open and get back to a new normal in everybody’s lives here in Massachusetts.”
The governor said residents who do attend gatherings – whether indoors or outdoors – should wear a mask, avoid sharing food and drink, and use common sense. He noted indoor gatherings are presently limited to 25 people or fewer and cautioned that that limit could be reduced if necessary.
“If we continue to see a rise in new cases and changes in our public health data, we’ll have to consider a number of options, including reducing the gathering size back down to a smaller number,” Baker said.
He also said people, “need to be responsible about traveling,” and noted his new travel order goes into effect Saturday. The new order applies to all travelers arriving in the state, including residents returning home and college students coming to school for the fall semester.
Under the order, all travelers arriving in Massachusetts must fill out a form, which can be found online at mass.gov/matraveler, unless they are arriving from a state designated as being at a lower risk for COVID-19 transmission.
Those travelers subject to the new rules will be required to quarantine for 14 days unless they can produce a negative COVID-19 test result that was administered up to 72 hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts. Travelers would no longer be subject to the quarantine requirement if they receive a negative test result after they arrive in the state.
Those who violate the new rule face a fine of $500 per day.
Eight states are currently deemed lower risk: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. To be designated as a lower-risk state, a state must have a positive test rate below 5 percent and fewer than six new cases per day per 100,000 residents. Both are measured as a seven-day rolling average.
Baker on Friday also announced the start of a new public-awareness campaign, “Mask Up MA!” to remind everyone of the importance of wearing masks or other face coverings. The campaign includes a new website, mass.gov/maskup.
Masks have been mandatory in public when social distancing is not possible since May in the Bay State. Those who violate the rule face a fine of up to $300.
By SCOTT JACKSON
School officials in Quincy prefer a hybrid learning model – with students learning in-person two days a week and remotely at home three days a week – for the start of the new academic year next month.
Kevin Mulvey, the school system’s interim superintendent, reviewed the return-to-school options during the School Committee’s meeting Wednesday night. The committee approved a preliminary re-opening plan Wednesday and will review a more comprehensive plan next week.
The re-opening plan includes three different models – in-person instruction, remote learning and the hybrid option – and will be submitted to the state for approval. The committee was not asked to choose between the three models when it met Wednesday.
Mulvey had assembled a task force to map out those three options; task force members included school officials, teachers, parents, and the heads of the city’s health, public buildings and traffic departments. The task force has determined that a return to full-time in-person instruction is not feasible, Mulvey said.
“Full in-person at this point isn’t really doable at this time, but a hybrid approach…absolutely is,” he said. “So is remote learning for those students and parents who wish to remain remote when we return in September.”
There is not enough space within the city’s school buildings to accommodate six feet of physical distancing, even if alternative spaces were used, according to the preliminary plan submitted to the state.
There would be enough room at most schools – 70 percent of elementary schools, all five middle schools and both high schools, with the use of alternative spaces at some of those buildings – to accommodate three feet of physical distancing, the minimum required by the state. According to the submission to the state, however, both the district and the Quincy Education Association, as well as the Massachusetts Teachers Association, have “significant health and safety concerns” with the three-foot model.
Under the hybrid model the district is proposing, students in all grade levels would be split alphabetically between two cohorts. One cohort would attend school in-person on Mondays and Tuesday and then learn remotely Thursdays and Fridays. The other cohort would learn remotely on Mondays and Tuesdays and in-person on Thursdays and Fridays. Certain high-need students would receive in-person instructions all five days.
Under the proposed hybrid model, both cohorts would learn remotely on Wednesdays, during which time the schools could be cleaned. Because of that, half days would be moved to Wednesdays from Tuesdays this year.
The hybrid model would work differently based on grade level.
Each elementary class would be split in two – half in one cohort and half in the other – with two teachers assigned to each class. Each cohort would have the same teacher four days a week with both teachers leading a combined remote class on Wednesdays.
A similar approach would be taken in the middle schools, though students would have different teachers for different subjects. Class times would be longer than they would be in a typical school year, but students would spend roughly the same amount of time learning each subject as they normally would.
The remote learning portion for both elementary and middle school students would be live.
“We really felt strongly that the days that children are remote, they still need to have that live instruction from a teacher,” said Erin Perkins, the district’s elementary curriculum coordinator. “We could not assign asynchronous activities.”
High school students would continue taking all classes, including electives. High school classes would be split into two cohorts, with the same teacher for both groups. Under that model, students would receive live instruction on the two days they attend class in-person and on Wednesdays, while the other two days they are at home would include asynchronous activities.
School Committee member Emily Lebo said she was concerned high school students would only receive a half year’s education using that approach.
“It looks like we’re going to have enough time to teach kids half of the content that we normally would with some remote supplement,” she said. “I’m not blaming anybody for this, I’m just very worried.”
North Quincy High School Principal Robert Shaw said he and Lawrence Taglieri, his counterpart at Quincy High School, would have to work with teachers on lesson planning to prepare for the hybrid model. Shaw suggested an English teacher could focus on a book or a literary unit during the in-person sessions and then give students a writing assignment for the remote days.
“I’m addressing a different part of my standards through the remote sessions than I did with the live sessions,” he said. “Not as easy for a math teacher, I don’t think, or a vocational teacher. That is a challenge and I think we just call on the creativity of people to get there as much as we can.”
Committee member Doug Gutro said he was concerned about a potential lack of structure for high schoolers during the two days of remote learning that are not Wednesdays, based on his sons’ experience last school year.
“So much of it just felt like homework that they could whenever they choose throughout the day,” Gutro said. “The lack of structure was not good. I’ve got pretty disciplined kids…but it matters. It helps.”
School officials had surveyed parents to gauge their opinion on re-opening schools in the fall; 3,456 parents, representing 4,404 students, completed the survey.
Overall, 37.5 percent of parents said they preferred in-person instruction, 32.3 percent favored remote learning, and 30.2 percent chose the hybrid model.
Parents’ preference varied by grade level. A plurality of high school and middle parents said they preferred the hybrid model; 39.3 percent of high school parents and 34.2 percent of middle school parents chose that option. The favorite at the elementary school level was in-person instruction, with 40.7 percent of the vote.
Teachers were also surveyed as part of the process; 690 teachers had completed the survey as of July 27. Roughly half of those who completed the survey teach at the elementary school level with the remainder split between middle and high school.
Teachers preferred the hybrid model; 40 percent of teachers chose that option, 35.4 percent favored remote learning and 24.6 percent selected in-person instruction.
Committee member Paul Bregoli asked if it would be possible to provide in-person instruction full-time at the elementary level, given that 40.7 percent of elementary parents supported that approach.
“Keeping their attention with an online model, I think, is very difficult,” Bregoli said. “I’ve been there as a teacher and as a counsellor and I know those kids.”
In addition, Bregoli said students in that age group are less likely to contract and spread COVID-19.
“The science says that those kids are the least likely to contract the virus and the least likely to pass it on, so I don’t think there is an issue in terms of putting people in danger – either students or staff,” he said.
Mulvey, the interim superintendent, said roughly 50 percent of elementary parents would have to opt into full-time remote learning in order to create enough space that the remaining could receive in-person instruction full-time.
“We’re not giving up on it,” he said. “We would love to see in-person for elementary, just because [of the] difficulty of doing remote learning, even in the hybrid model, for the younger grades.”
Mulvey said the district does have enough teachers to move ahead with the proposed hybrid model – as well as a remote-only program for students whose families opt to keep their children out of schools this year.
The district, Mulvey added, is looking to hire additional certified teachers as substitutes in the event they are needed in case a teacher becomes ill or otherwise needs to take time off. The district does have some specialists – such as literacy and math specialists – who could shift into teaching roles. Assistant principals and certain members of the superintendent’s leadership team could potentially be pressed into service as teachers if necessary.
The first day of classes for students in Quincy is currently Sept. 9.
The state is allowing districts to push back the start of the school year to as late as Sept. 16 so teachers can receive extra training on remote instruction. Mulvey said Quincy Public Schools should delay the start of the school year to Sept. 16 to allow for the additional professional development. That would equal a delay of five school days.