EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Effective Friday, October 30, Easthampton will be taking a step back to Step 1 of Phase 3, as a direct result of new cases of COVID-19 reported by the state Department of Public Health Thursday.
Easthampton health officials told 22News that while they are not in the “red” according to their most recent numbers, they were only one case away from “red” on the state’s COVID-19 map so they decided to take the step back.
“It’s very difficult because we have a lot of local retailers and restaurants and we want these places to stay open and operate. This is really a hardship,” Easthampton Board of Health chair, Maggie Hebert told 22News.
Rolling back a step reduces capacity of gyms and libraries as well as limiting outdoor gatherings at event venues and in public to 50 people instead of 100.
“All you have to do is wear a mask, keep the six feet of social distancing and pay attention to the guidelines about gatherings around the holidays,” Hebert continued.
When it comes to enforcement, they cannot give a fine after a complaint unless they investigate themselves.
“Sometimes people get upset if they up a complaint in. ‘What was the outcome? Did you find them or what did you do?’ We can’t just fine off the bat. We’ve got to give verbals and writtens and give everyone a chance to comply,” Easthampton Health Agent, Bri Eichstaedt told 22News.
The first offense is a verbal warning, then a $150 fine and lastly a $300 fine and court.
But Eichstaedt said they typically don’t get to the highest offense before a business complies.
The Board of Health said it is hard to predict how long they will be be in step one of phase three.
The state’s weekly COVID-19 map shows 12 western Massachusetts, listed as red, meaning they’re a high-risk area for COVID-19. According to the city’s Board of Health, the following types of businesses are not allowed to operate during Step 1 of Phase 3:
- Indoor performance venues
- Roller skating rinks
- Trampoline parks
- Obstacle courses
- Laser tag
- Escape rooms
The following types of businesses must reduce capacity to 40 percent (previously 50 percent while in Step 2 of Phase 3) when operating during Step 1 of Phase 3:
- Driving/flight schools
- Lower-contact indoor and outdoor recreation businesses
In a statement sent to 22News, the state Board of Health Chair stated:
The state has seen an uptick in positive COVID cases and Easthampton is now on the brink ofMaggie Hebert, Board of Health Chair
being red in the high-risk category. As a community we need to be more diligent to stop the
spread; therefore, we have made the difficult decision to roll back to Step 1 of Phase 3
immediately. We will continue to monitor but please follow the guidelines so we can support
our local businesses but also remain healthy.
Hebert went on to say rolling back the opening was a difficult decision. For more information on the city’s order, click here.