Lexington Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis


Lexington currently has 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17 people in quarantine

• All Town buildings are closed to the public through April 6. Many services are available online; for a complete list, visit LexingtonMA.gov/Online. If your circumstance warrants an in person meeting, please contact the department to schedule an in-person meeting, which is a last option. A list of department contacts can be found at LexingtonMA.gov/ContactUs.
• Patriots’ Day events have been canceled by a 5-0 vote of the Select Board.
• Playgrounds and athletic fields are closed to the public.
• Parks and open spaces can be used by residents at their own risk, but we would like to emphasize that they should be used for passive recreation, and that organized group activities are not allowed. Additionally, all public bathrooms will be closed.
• Governor Baker announced that all bars and restaurants will be ordered not to provide on-site service to patrons. Restaurants, however, will be allowed to provide pick-up and delivery services. We understand the economic impact of these decisions, so we are encouraging the community to support local businesses during these difficult times.
• Most Lexington Board and Committee meetings in March and April are canceled.
• The following Boards and Committees will continue to meet (all others are canceled) For the Boards, Committees and Commissions listed above, we will provide protocols on holding the meetings remotely as per the emergency legislation signed by the Governor last week:
Select Board, Appropriation Committee, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Capital Expenditures Committee, Conservation Commission, Historic Districts Commission, Retirement Board, Historical Commission, Planning Board, School Committee, Zoning Board of Appeals
• Cary Library is closed March 13 – April 6, 2020.
• Lexington Community Center closed – March 13 – April 6, 2020.


By Denise Dubé

When Town Manager Jim Malloy said, at the start of Thursday night’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Information Forum, that guidelines are changing daily and sometimes hourly, he wasn’t kidding. Since the March 12 meeting, held in an empty and cavernous Battin Hall, Governor Charlie Baker and the state’s health agencies have lowered crowd size restrictions, called for restaurant restrictions and public space closings, and restricted governmental gatherings.

At this writing, it has all changed again – and once again Monday night by the federal government. Residents should expect constant alterations and check with the town website and other local resources. (See Senior Matters on page 46 for guidance for seniors and at-risk individuals.)

However, the basics have not changed. (See pages 30 & 31 for basic information and guidance.)

Addressing the ever-changing situation, the Select Board called an emergency meeting on Monday, March 16, at 2 p.m. in Town Hall – four days after the forum. There, the Select Board, the Town Manager, Town Meeting Moderator Deborah Brown, State Representative Michelle Ciccolo, and other officials, all sitting six feet apart, recognized changes and discussed the upcoming Town Meetings.

By the end, in a unanimous vote erring on the side of caution, Patriots Day events were canceled, and Town Meeting, slated to start March 23, will, in all probability, begin at a later date.

Further changes made during the Select Board meeting and noted later by Public Information Officer Sean Dugan: town offices and public buildings (including Cary Library and the Community Center) are closed to the public. Notices are being placed on doors reminding residents. Select Board Member Suzy Barry suggested that all public notices be translated in multiple languages for accessibility.

Select Board members, and Malloy advised people to call before visiting any town or community office. Town employees, Malloy said, will work in two shifts, some on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and others on Tuesday and Thursday. Some will work from home, he said.

It was also announced that “all playgrounds will be closed for public use. Parks and open spaces can be used by residents at their own risk, but we would like to emphasize that they should be used for passive recreation, and that organized group activities are not allowed. Additionally, all public bathrooms will be closed. The Pinemeadow Golf Course will still be open to the public for the time being since games are played in small groups, but that is subject to change.”

March 12 Virtual Forum

These changes, some big, some small, occurred after the March 12 virtual forum – a first in Lexington, but certainly not the last.

The March 12 COVID-19 forum included: Town Manager James Malloy, Lexington Board of Health Chair Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Select Board Chair Doug Lucente, Superintendent Julie Hackett, Director of Public Facilities Michael Cronin, Lexington Public Health Nurse David Neylon, Lexington Board of Health Member Dr. David Geller, Lexington Resident and Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL) president Hua Wang.

School Superintendent Dr. Julie Hackett explained that the schools would close for two weeks and that this would slow the spread of the virus. She explained that decades earlier, a winter break was introduced into the school system to break the cycle of illnesses that students continually shared. It worked, she said, and had every reason to believe it would work again.

Facilities Director Michael Cronin stated that his Public Facility Department staff would clean the schools in two stages, using PC 103 and PC 105 products during the closure. Custodians are trained in handling both products and will first scour by hand and then use a fogger that will permeate every corner and space. It’s so safe, he said, that a student “Could lick the desk,” and be fine.

“PC 103 is a disinfectant, and PC 105 is a sanitizer,” Cronin noted. “Both are registered with the (EPA) Environmental Protection Agency as being effective in killing the COVID 19 virus.”

PC 103 is sprayed on the surface for 10 minutes before being wiped away, and “PC 105 can also be applied to surfaces using a spray bottle, and that product is effective after only one minute of contact with a surface.” In a follow-up statement, he added, “PC 105 can also be used in an electrostatic fogger. It takes the sanitizer and positively charges it while converting it to fog. This is then sprayed throughout the entire room covering all areas, even those hard to get. The advantage of the positively charged ions is to allow the fog to cling and attach itself to surfaces that it wouldn’t come into contact with just gravity. The fog will wrap itself around desk legs, chair legs, etc. providing significantly better sanitization coverage. It is safe for use in food service and there are no concerns in the event a student’s mouth comes in contact with a surface that has been sanitized.”

Lexington Select Board Emergency Meeting

Emergency Select Board Session on March 16

By the time the Select Board met Monday in emergency session, Governor Charlie Baker had announced that all schools would close for three weeks, and legislative House Bill H4572 “An Act to Address Challenges in Town Governance Resulting from COVID-19” introduced that same day, would allow Lexington to delay Town Meeting. Members were amenable to postponement  for the allowable 30 days with the option to delay again. (For updates visit, on Town Meeting visit, www.lexingtonma.gov. For a PDF of the Governor’s bill see, www.malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4572.)

Town Manager James Malloy commented on the idea of holding a virtual Town Meeting. He reported that he had he virtually attended an online meeting with about 130 local officials the previous day, and that participants muted the computer and sent questions to the person leading the meeting. It worked well Malloy said.

Currently, most boards and committees will continue their work, but those events will be virtual or held via conference calls, Malloy said. “We’re in uncharted territory.”

Each Select Board member, in turn, thanked town employees for their excellent work and ability to respond quickly to this public health crisis.

Flattening the Curve – The Basics

There are some constants among the evolving changes. At Thursday’s forum residents were told to practice social distancing, wash hands and avoid crowds to minimize the opportunities for disease transfer. The state has mandated that no more than twenty-five people may gather and the federal government recently suggest that people limit gatherings to ten people or less in their “15 Days to Slow the Spread” document released on March 16.

Every health official agrees these efforts will help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus. Infections will still happen, but they won’t happen all at once in a huge surge that could overwhelm local hospitals.

The COVID-19 Virus in Lexington

“We have six confirmed cases,” Selectman Doug Lucente said via a telephone interview last Sunday evening. “We were at four last Thursday and three on Wednesday. A week ago, we had zero. Now we have six.”

Lexington Board of Health Chair Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, who participated in the March 12 forum, spoke after the meeting. She and the four other members of the Board of Health work with the Department of Public Health.

The Boston University toxicologist asked that people please remember to wash their hands. “Be clean, be kind, be supportive,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said.

“What we’re saying now is, it’s not about the numbers,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said of crowds and groups. “One-hundred people in a classroom is not fine,” she said. “It’s about spatial density – about people in the room in which they are gathering.”

Dr. Heiger-Bernays also explained the difference between COVID-19’s “presumptive positive” and positive test results. “Presumptive positives” comes from the first testing that is done by the state.  “The tests then go to the CDC and become a real positive,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said. She’s unaware of any presumptive positives that were not confirmed by the CDC.

Since then the state’s testing capacity has grown as federal officials granted Massachusetts permission to begin testing samples at the state’s public health laboratory, rather than sending them to a centralized location run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials at the forum noted that several independent labs will come online within the next few weeks, and that will increase testing abilities – and inevitably the numbers in Lexington.

“Quarantine does work,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said. “What does that mean?” she said. “It means social distancing. It means when you sneeze or cough, six feet is how far the droplets go. So, you need to be six feet away. Droplets drop on surfaces, and the virus can survive for many days. That’s why we need to wash our hands so many times.”

“We are in the phase where we are trying to manage the everyday changes, which has been the case for the last three weeks,” Lucente said. We are adjusting to changes as they happen.”

The Select Board is working closely with the schools, the Lexington Office of Public Health and the Board of Health, and said that Neylon, the public health nurse, is working around the clock monitoring Lexington residents who suspect they have the virus.

“It’s a Herculean task,” he said of Neylon’s work. Keeping information current and making it public is a huge job for every town official. “It’s scary how quickly this is changing,” Lucente said. “The next phase we’ll get into is how can we help the people who are hurting.”

One way to help, Hua Wang said, is by educating the public. Wang, who is president of the Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL), referenced a racially charged incident on public transportation and urged people to stop that racist behavior in and outside of Lexington. “In times like this, we need to stand up for each other,” Wang said during the forum.

Lucente said there is an outpouring from groups and people trying to help. He foresees using the Fund for Lexington, set up 20 years ago as a safety net for Lexington residents, to help those who are in a bind because of COVID-19.

People can help by donating to the fund, Lucente said. He’s also chairman of that effort and suggested those interested send donations to Fund for Lexington, Trustees of Public Trust, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, 02420. People in need can access the funds through the town’s Human Services Department. These emergency funds can be used to help pay rent, heating oil, and to buy groceries. All requests are confidential. (Town of Lexington Department of Human Services 781-698-4840).

Although state and federal officials are attempting to allocate resources for people, Lucente isn’t sure “how or when they will be distributed. None of us have done this before,” Lucente said.

Select Board Member Suzy Barry said, “This is not time to go inside your house and lock the doors.” She encouraged all of her fellow public officials to pick ten names each day and reach out by phone or email. Social distancing is not social isolation she stressed.

In the latest move by the state, Governor Charlie Baker announced that all bars and restaurants would be allowed to provide pick-up and delivery services only. No dine-in service is permitted for the foreseeable future.

The town issued a statement saying, “We understand the economic impact of these decisions, so we are encouraging the community to support local businesses during these difficult times.”


The Fund for Lexington
You can help neighbors in need by donating to the Fund for Lexington, which is administered by the Trustees for Public Trusts.
Fund for Lexington
Trustees of the Public Trusts
Town of Lexington
1625 Mass. Ave., Lexington, MA 02420

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