Health board approves vaccine mandate for Hadley Senior Center

  • Hadley Senior Center GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2022

HADLEY — Senior citizens and other people participating in activities offered by the Hadley Senior Center will be required to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations beginning Jan. 10, based on an order adopted by the Board of Health.

With support from several seniors active at the center, but in the face of opposition from some residents, board members Dr. Susan Mosler and Margaret Mastrangelo voted 2-0 to implement the vaccine mandate for use of the building during its meeting Dec. 30. Board member Gregory Mish was absent.

“It is clear that limiting entrance to the Senior Center to only those vaccinated will decrease the likelihood of COVID spread in the Senior Center,” Mosler said. “This is critically important as individuals 65 and over are at much higher risk of severe illness should they become infected.”

But the vaccine mandate will not go into effect without a similar affirmative action from the Select Board to join the order at their meeting on Jan. 5, based on an opinion from town attorney KP Law.

“We look for the Select Board to endorse this policy at their next meeting as a demonstration ‘of using all possible care to prevent the spread of infection,’” Mosler said, citing the language used by the town attorney.

Under the policy, in effect between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays, access to the Senior Center would be restricted to those who are vaccinated for group activities, exercise and art classes, billiards and ping pong, Coffee with a Cop and social gatherings. Exempted from the policy will be municipal training, people coming for COVID testing, deliveries, lunch pickup by town employees, municipal departments meeting outside those hours, urgent service calls and municipal elections.

Mosler said the significant increase in town cases, with 48 new infections reported Dec. 11 and Dec. 19, compared to the two to three cases every two weeks for much of fall, and an appeal from Senior Center staff, prompted the decision.

“They want the seniors of Hadley to be able to come to the Senior Center and benefit from their services, facilities and communities with minimum fear of being exposed to COVID-19,” Mosler said.

She also noted that of the 1,300 residents 60 and over, just 225 are unvaccinated.

Feedback among the numerous people participating in the meeting, which included many non-residents who have also spoken out during sessions about vaccine mandates in Northampton and Amherst, was mixed.

“I’m fully in support of the resolution that the Board of Health read out,” said Sarah Strong of Middle Street.

But Melinda Nielsen of Middle Street said she is opposed to restricting use of one of the town’s resources, and that the health board is using duress against her and others to get the vaccine.