Around Amherst: Town employees directed to wear better masks

Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2022

Municipal employees are being asked to wear better masks at Town Hall and other municipal buildings as a way of keeping the workforce safe and healthy during the latest surge of COVID-19.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said this week that the mandate for workers is to use either surgical procedure masks, which are multi-ply and often seen in hospital and medical office settings, or KN-95 masks.

“They’re very effective,” Bockelman said of those medical-grade masks.

Employees can still use cloth masks, though they should be donned in coordination with the more secure masks. Employees don’t have to wear masks when at their own desks or in their own offices.

During the first meeting of the newest Town Council, held in person at Town Room at Town Hall this week, all councilors were provided with KN-95 masks, and the small number of people in attendance were rapidly tested to make sure there were no infections.

Bockelman said the “layering of public health strategies” to beat back the pandemic comes from a recommendation from Health Director Jennifer Brown.

The town is also encouraging, but not mandating, employees to be vaccinated, while clinics for first and second doses and booster shots are being offered.

Continued rapid testing, with support from the University of Massachusetts, is also happening. The town gets 500 tests per week, though on Monday a line of people seeking tests formed outside the Bangs Community Center before it opened, and all tests available there and at Jones Library were gone by day’s end.

Dickinson donations

The Emily Dickinson Museum recently received more than 300 items from the sets, and more than 100 costume pieces, used by Wiip Productions for “Dickinson,” the half-hour comedy series available on Apple TV+.

The gift includes antique furniture and objects acquired by the show to make the sets of the Dickinson residences, both the Homestead and the Evergreens, as authentic as possible, as well as costumes worn by the main actors.

Created by Alena Smith, “Dickinson” stars Hailee Steinfeld, Toby Huss, Ella Hunt and Jane Krakowski. Though filmed in New York, the production worked closely with the Emily Dickinson Museum throughout, with production crew members visiting the museum to study the architecture and floor plans of the two homes.

“The Dickinson show and the museum share the goal of amplifying Emily Dickinson’s powerful and revolutionary poetic voice,” Museum Executive Director Jane Wald said in a statement, “and we’re thrilled that the show has introduced so many to that voice.”

Single-payer health care forum

Two committees from the League of Women Voters of Amherst, focused on racial justice and health care, are presenting “How Single Payer Health Care Combats Racial Disparities” virtually on Jan. 11.

The Zoom event runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. To join, go to lwvamherst.org.

Police accreditation

Assessors from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission Inc. will be examining aspects of the Amherst Police Department’s policies and procedures and operations and facilities later this month.

The peer review is being done Jan. 17-19 to determine if the department will maintain its accreditation, which it has held since 2000, when it became the second department in the state to gain the distinction.

Six times since then, or about every three years, the department has successfully continued its accreditation, meaning it is in compliance with 257 mandatory standards and more than half of 125 optional standards.

Questions about the process can be directed to Lt. Brian Daly at 259-3275 or dalyb@amherstma.gov.

Meetings, all virtual

MONDAY: Community Resources Committee, 6:45 p.m.

WEDNESDAY: Historical Commission and Jones Library trustees, both at 6:30 p.m.

FRIDAY: Residents’ Advisory Committee, 11 a.m.