Hadley Select Board rules no vaccinations needed for town buildings

  • Hadley Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2022 5:05:29 PM

HADLEY — Vaccinations against COVID-19 will not be required to enter Hadley municipal buildings, including the Hadley Senior Center, Hadley Public Library and Town Hall, after the Select Board adopted a recommendation this week from the town’s lead safety team that contravenes a pending order from the town’s Board of Health.

The Select Board unanimously approved a recommendation Wednesday from Unified Command, made up of public safety, health and other town officials, to not restrict access to town buildings based on a person’s vaccination status.

“The operations of the Senior Center and library are a critical resource, and we felt that this should not be limited to anyone as the result of not having a vaccination card,” said Fire Chief Mike Spanknebel, a member of the Unified Command team.

He said the recommendation was developed following two Unified Command meetings in which members discussed vaccination mandates, as well as the possibility of closing buildings to prevent spread of illness.

In late December, the Board of Health adopted a requirement, with support from Senior Center staff, that anyone interested in participating in group programs and other activities at the Senior Center, with certain exemptions, would have to demonstrate being vaccinated against COVID-19.

At the time, the vote was met with mixed reaction from the public, and the health board acknowledged that the Select Board would have to join in approving the plan because it has oversight of policies for entrance to town buildings. The Select Board then put the idea on hold earlier this month and sought a recommendation from Unified Command.

Spanknebel said the team reviewed current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and a majority felt keeping buildings open to all individuals, especially during the coldest time of year, was crucial.

He said safety could be maintained in other ways short of closing the buildings or requiring vaccines, including scaling back the size of group activities, such as exercise classes, prohibiting in-person dining, and giving both employees and visitors the option of better face-covering protection. KN95 masks are going to all departments, and some of these will be available to the public.

In deciding against the vaccine mandate, there was also concern about how it would be enforced and whether there could be an increase in workload for police officers.

A best practices approach will be employed at town buildings, including requiring that everyone in the buildings wear masks at all times, except when in an office or a work area, staying 6 feet apart, and encouraging anyone feeling unwell to stay home.

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

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