Amherst, Hadley health boards to discuss proof of vax policies

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/29/2021 10:17:51 PM
Modified: 12/29/2021 10:17:24 PM

AMHERST — An emergency Board of Health meeting set for Thursday evening will discuss whether certain businesses may be required to have customers provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Amherst Health Director Jennifer Brown said Wednesday that no policy has yet been written, but that the Health Department wants to acknowledge that a substantial increase in cases during and after the holidays is possible, and talk about the best strategies to reduce transmission.

“The proof of vaccine for certain businesses will be discussed, but may not be adopted,” Brown said.

The Board of Health meeting in Amherst begins at 5 p.m. Also that evening, at 7 p.m., the Hadley Board of Health is holding a meeting that includes an agenda item “discussion and vote on emergency order pertaining to vaccine requirements to enter certain businesses in Hadley.” The agenda also includes a continued conversation and possible vote on a vaccine mandate for the Senior Center.

The meetings come after the Northampton Board of Health Tuesday came under fire from many of the more than 300 people who attended the meeting where it unveiled a proposal for a vaccine passport. Under the plan in the city, anyone 5 and older would have to show proof of full vaccination, with restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor businesses affected.

In Amherst, the agenda states “discuss vaccine requirement for certain Amherst businesses” and lists restaurants, gyms and large venues as those to be covered.

At a recent Town Council meeting, after Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced that her city would join others like New York City in mandating people be vaccinated at certain businesses, Town Manager Paul Bockelman was asked by councilors if something similar would be under consideration. Bockelman said at the time that it was not, that Amherst’s rules are often aligned with Northampton, and that any changes might come when testing at the University of Massachusett resumes in January.

“In terms of physical spaces, I think what we want to do is see what happens after the first of the year,” Bockelman said.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam advocated for strong measures, even if it means unvaccinated people could be turned away. “I just hope we do everything possible to keep the spread down here,” Pam said.

Such policies already exist. At UMass, people may be asked to show proof of vaccine to attend functions at the Mullins Center and Fine Arts Center, and the Amherst Cinema requires people to present vaccine cards and IDs. 

The health board agenda also has topics including the existing mask order, other COVID-19 orders and authorizing the health director on other efforts, and the general state of the pandemic.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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