NORTHAMPTON – A proposal to require anyone aged 5 and over to present full proof of vaccination before entering restaurants, gyms and other covered businesses across town will be considered again by Council on Thursday health.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January 3, but it was canceled because, under the requirements of the Open Meetings Act, city officials did not release the agenda on time. The new date of the virtual meeting is January 13 at 5:30 p.m. and a vote on the vaccination passport plan is possible.
Health Council member Laurent Levy posted a public statement on Facebook over the weekend, sharing his own views and not those of the council. He wrote that in addition to listening to three hours of public commentary at the December 28 board meeting, he has so far read most of the 300 pages of written testimony that have been submitted.
“My role as a Board member is: to listen; use good science; control my own prejudices; DO NOT make decisions based on ideology; recognize that we do not have all the answers and that those answers may change over time; be pragmatic, ”Levy wrote. “Insults, threats and prejudices are counterproductive. ”
Speaking to The Gazette, Levy said he was “annoyed” by the misinformation about the vaccine passport and his fellow Board members, including the idea that the four volunteers named are “politicians.” He said the members and public health director Merridith O’Leary are “reasonable” and that the outcome of the vote is not a given.
At the December 28 meeting, a man who identified himself as David Rosenberg criticized the vaccine passport proposal and called the board members “wealthy and unelected Jewish doctors.” Another person using the name “JEWS WON’T REPLACE US” displayed three swastikas on their Zoom meeting photo.
Northampton activist Amy Bookbinder told The Gazette she was “bothered” by the rhetoric and the swastikas. She shared a letter she wrote to the board thanking them for the proposed term and encouraging them to adopt it despite fanatic criticism.
“I was appalled and frightened, as a Jew, by the anti-Semitism heard and seen (in the Nazi zoom image) in many of the meeting’s comments,” Bookbinder wrote to the board. “I hope the intimidation and fear employed won’t deter you from staying strong behind the mandate passage to help keep us all as safe as possible.”
Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra issued a statement last week condemning anti-Semitic comments and images, calling on others to “denounce the words and actions of those who sow hatred towards any group.”
A handful of anti-mandate protesters gathered outside city hall on Saturday afternoon, displaying signs such as “Informed consent, not coercion” and “Freedom: no vaccine warrant”. A MoveOn.org petition in support of the vaccination plan had 424 signatures on Sunday.
The city health ministry’s draft vaccination order applies to all persons 5 years of age and older, including workers in covered businesses, and defines full vaccination as two injections in a series of two injections – or one injection of Johnson & Johnson vaccine – plus a booster injection if eligible. Anyone aged 18 and over must present an identity document in addition to their vaccination record.
Businesses expected to comply with the ordinance would include all indoor dining establishments, bars, nightclubs, food halls, hotel banquet halls, gymnasiums and fitness centers, dance and yoga / Pilates studios, gyms concert, museums, bowling, adult entertainment locations, arcades and swimming pools, among others.
“Some people need that assurance” from a company requiring vaccinations for their customers, Levy said. “I’m not going to make a decision based on reassuring people. I can only make a decision based on, this is good science and will save lives. I still haven’t made up my mind.
The vaccination requirement at The Roost cafe on Market Street, Levy said, is a “very good model” because customers are allowed to place an order before staff verify their vaccination status. Those who are vaccinated can stay in the restaurant while those who are not have to take their take out orders.
“I found it to be a great system, and hopefully some places can put something like that in place,” Levy said. “There is a great opportunity and I would love to see that in town. ”
The Northampton Health Department reported on Friday that more than 20% of all COVID cases in the city since the start of the pandemic – 537 out of a total of 2,488 – were identified during the two-week period between December 23 and January 5. The city has reported 108 deaths from COVID-19.
Last week, the city recorded an average of around 100 new positive tests each day, while around 78% of the city’s population is fully vaccinated.
“When we look at these trends, it’s important to stress that we’re seeing delays in reporting due to limited access to tests and increased turnaround times for results,” the department wrote in a statement. public, “and that this count also does not include positive results from home self-tests, which are known to be numerous. Therefore, the new case data is likely an underestimate of what is happening. really happening. ”
The Department of Health is calling for a full vaccination and booster shots for all who are eligible and has written that properly fitting KN95 or N95 surgical masks should be worn in public “and around other people you do not live with” . Other measures to prevent infection and spread include increased indoor ventilation, thorough and frequent hand washing, and staying home and testing for COVID-19 when sick.
“Very early data suggested that the Omicron variant may cause milder disease compared to previous variants of the virus,” the department wrote, “(but) this variant and other variants of COVID-19 may still cause illness. severe illness, hospitalization, death, and lasting disability ”, especially in those who are more susceptible to the virus due to age or underlying health problems.
Brian Steele can be reached at [email protected]