Harwich Officials Provide Local Update on Outbreak Response

HARWICH – Harwich officials came together Friday to update the public on a conference call on the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials on the call included Harwich Fire Chief Norman Clark, Chief of Staff Patrick Johnson from Cape & Islands State Senator Julian Cyr’s office, Harwich Selectmen Chair Larry Ballantine, United Way Cape Cod and the Islands President Mark Skala and others.

Chief Clarke spoke about the importance of good hygiene to minimize the spread of the virus and assist the experts better control the outbreak.

“Assume everybody is positive. Now when I say that, that just means simply following the rules which is just simple social distancing and washing your hands. We need you to help us do our jobs. The fewer people who get sick, the better off your fire department and police department is. We are here to serve as we always have, and we will continue to serve under any condition,” he said.

“I want to assure you in Harwich that we have our act together,” said Clarke.

Clarke also celebrated the effectiveness and coordination of the Harwich community leaders like Health Director Meggan Eldredge.

Clarke also warned that residents and officials should beware bad information from disreputable sources about the coronavirus.

Harwich Police Chief David Guillemette said that the police department will still continue to serve as it adapts to the changes brought by the outbreak.

“We are still up and running. We have a full complement of officers out there ready to respond to any emergencies that may arise. 911 is still operating, our dispatchers are still there answering the business lines at the PD.”

Guillemette said that the department has had to make some alterations as far as limiting contact with the public at their office, adding that record requests must be done by phone or email and may have some delay in fulfillment.

Everything else at the police department is otherwise normal.

Johnson talked about handling difficulties in acquiring health supplies in the Commonwealth.  

“Senator Cyr is part of a seven-senator working group on COVID-19, leading the response in the Senate addressing a whole host of issues. The biggest concern we’re working with the Baker administration on is the lack of Personal Protective Equipment and the supply chain issues,” said Johnson.

Johnson assured that there is distribution coming down to the Cape regularly, and that Cyr’s office is keeping in touch with Cape Cod Hospital to make sure they get what supplies they need.

“It’s the most important priority whether it be the governor’s office, our office, and pretty much everybody at the state level,” said Johnson.

Johnson also said that their website senatorcyr.com will be kept updated with important information as it comes out daily.

Cyndi Williams Harwich Chamber of Commerce spoke on the state of business in the town.

“We update our website harwichcc.com daily if not a couple times a day with the updates, but we have a new piece on the website called Doing Business Now for the businesses that were deemed non-essential. We have 20 or 30 listed right there how they’ve altered their practice for business,” said Williams.

Meanwhile, stores labeled as essential businesses such as Agway in Harwich are doing curb-side services to help keep the spread of the virus low in the town.

Harwich Selectman Chair Larry Ballantine was concerned with keeping the town government prepared for when the peak of the outbreak was behind the community.

“We’re also in the midst of all this thinking about when we get out of it. To that regard, we have placed a drop box outside the office for people that have requests that need to be attended to. With the remote participation, there’s not a lot that we can do,” said Ballantine.

“We’re doing what we can going forward.”

The drop box will be for anything from the general public that needs to get to the town.

Papers placed in the drop box will be under a 24 hour quarantine before being distributed to the officials they need to reach.

Skala said they are working on making sure funds and grants get to parts of the community that need it most.

“I’m happy to say that the three major organizations the Cape and Islands United Way, the Cape Cod Foundation, and the Major Crisis Relief Fund that’s part of the Cape Cod Times Needy Fund, we’re all working collaboratively to make sure we are meeting the needs of the community,” said Skala.

“We have enacted our Community Response Fund, which we just established in our budget in 2020 not realizing that 60 days into it we’d have to enact it, but we have enacted it. We have had tremendous success with it in the last several days in terms of donations. The reason for the fund is we want to act quickly and expeditiously.”

Skala said that the Cape and Islands United Way is focusing on basic human needs such as food, housing support, and childcare.

“For example we just gave a grant to the YMCA so they can keep their childcare center over to accommodate healthcare workers and essential workers,” said Skala.

Harwich Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers said they are working on getting people food who are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and that officials will update the public as information on the coronavirus response changes.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.

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