CONWAY – With COVID-19 numbers reaching unprecedented numbers, the Conway School Board has put in place a mask warrant for those attending its meetings.
Monday evening marked the first board meeting with the procedure in place. Only four board members were in attendance – Dr Michelle Capozzoli, Randy Davison, Joe Lentini (chair) and Barbara Lyons, who was attending her first meeting since her appointment on October 12 to fill the seat vacated by Courtney Burke, were all masked. . . Board members Joe Mosca, Ryan Wallace and Jessica Whitelaw were absent.
Monday also marked the lowest rate of citizen participation since July. Only five citizens came. Linda Burns, Jim LeFevbre and Doug Swett, all from Conway, and Tim Sorgi from Albany all wore masks.
Despite signs posted at every entrance to the school stating that masks were mandatory, Conway resident Wendy Richardson was not wearing one.
For this reason, Lentini approached her before the start of the meeting to inform her of the need to mask herself.
She replied, “I am socially distanced and have a doctor’s note.”
Lentini asked to see the note, but Richardson after looking for it in his bag, was unable to produce the note.
Still, Lentini allowed him to stay. “I’ll take your word for it tonight,” he said.
From his seat, Richardson continued to broadcast the meeting live on his phone.
As for the note, “I took her at her word,” Lentini said by phone Tuesday from Memorial Hospital, where he works as a paramedic administering COVID-19 tests.
Earlier this month, the council’s policy committee met and masks were mandatory. According to Lentini, who sits on the committee with Mosca and Whitelaw, Eaton’s Nella Thompson was present but did not put on a mask, citing a doctor’s note.
Masks in the seven schools of SAU 9 have been compulsory for students and staff since the start of the school year.
Signs that have been posted at school entrances since August originally read: “According to CDC guidelines, masks must be worn indoors by all persons (aged 2 and over) who are not. fully vaccinated. “
The new signs say masks must be worn by all people, whether or not they are vaccinated.
On the council’s mask mandate, “I made the call,” Lentini said. âIf we ask students and staff to wear masks when they are in these buildings, then we should all do the same.
Mosca, who suffered from a bout with the coronavirus, supported the decision.
âI was not a masked person until I was (COVID),â he said. âNow that I have it, I never want it again. If wearing a mask increases the chance by 1% that I won’t get it, and I won’t pass it on to someone else, I wear a mask. “
Richard also agreed with the board’s decision on the masks.
âAbsolutely,â he said by phone Tuesday. âThe goal is to protect everyone. “
Lentini said he has seen cases increase dramatically.
“I hope that if we ask people to disguise themselves, we will force everyone to comply.”
Masks have been a burning issue statewide.
In Moultonborough, voters at a special meeting on October 13 rejected an effort to end a mandatory face mask policy in Moultonborough schools.
The special meeting was held under state law following a petition campaign. A school district attorney said the school board was in charge of district policy and the vote was advisory only. Supporters of the meeting disputed this and said the outcome would be binding.
The policy stated that masks were to be worn inside schools and on school buses when there is a high level of community transmission of COVID-19 in Carroll County, as is currently the case.
Moultonborough School Board President Patrick Hart said it is important to be able to use all strategies to keep students safe. He said he wanted to avoid the kind of epidemic that would force distance learning.
A contingent of citizens demanded a municipal vote, hoping to change the policy. But when the votes were counted, a majority – 208 people – supported the status quo, with 156 people voting to overturn the policy.
Meanwhile, in Coos County, Berlin City Council and Gorham’s selection men both approved warrants for masks in public places during their meetings on Monday.
At the Berlin council meeting, Berlin school superintendent Julie King said she was in favor of a mask mandate and said the community, especially the medical community, had been hard hit by the virus as there are currently no open beds in the hospital.
King said the school district saw the masks working and that was the least intrusive way to help.
Coos County Family Health CEO Ken Gordon said the county is currently experiencing the highest COVID rates in New England.
Resident Emme Garret said she was concerned about events happening in the community where people interact with each other without practicing social distancing or wearing masks.
In Gorham, the board said it would reconsider his tenure at its next meeting on November 8.
Chief Executive Officer Denise VallÃ©e said she believes companies are relieved to be able to post board action on their front doors.
William Carroll, editor of the Berlin Sun, and Rick Green of the Laconia Daily Sun contributed to this article.