News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 19, 2020
Blue Hill Town Hall closed to public
Staff member tested after possible exposure to COVID-19

COVID concern causes closure

Visitors to the Blue Hill Town Hall will encounter a white marker board announcing that the offices are closed until further notice. The closure decision followed an announcement that an office staff member may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Photo by Jeffrey B. Roth Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Jeffrey B. Roth

On Tuesday, November 17, Blue Hill officials closed the town hall to the public as a safety measure after being advised that a staff member may have been exposed to COVID-19.

“As of today, the office is closed for public interaction,” Shawna Ambrose, town administrator said in a Tuesday, November 17, email. “We are utilizing a drop box out front for people to drop off items such as registrations, payments, etc., and we will call them when it’s ready to pick up—or they have the option to do their business over the phone. This is our way of minimizing the risks of COVID-19 transmission and hopefully keeping our staff safe. We do have the option for some of our staff to go remote, which will probably take place sooner than later, as I am just waiting for the board to make the final decision. At this point, I think working remotely from home is a good idea in terms of safety.”

During the Monday, November 16, evening meeting of the select board, Ambrose said the staff member was tested for the coronavirus, but it may be two or three days before the test results are available. As a result of the surge of positive COVID-19 cases confirmed during the last several weeks, more people are being tested at various locations, such as the “swab & go” drive-through coronavirus testing site operated by Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital. Ambrose said it is her understanding that test results are taking two to three days because of a backlog at testing labs.

“I’m thinking about it,” board member Ellen Best said at the meeting. “I think we ought to definitely stick to remote and, maybe, just close down….”

Ambrose said that area school superintendents have been “doing a really good job about keeping COVID out of the schools in our area. And at this point, school was the safest place for the kids because they’re doing such a good job. And I feel like if we, you know, that would be the breaking point of all this if we had a case in the school. So, I think whatever we can do to minimize that risk, then I think we should do it.”

Selectman Jim Dow added: “I think we have to follow your [Ambrose’s] recommendations on this. You know how this works. So we’re fully supportive of what you feel needs to be done.”

Board chair Vaughn Leach said: “I think the office with no public allowed in or near it, hopefully, can be made a safe place for the staff to be able to work and socially distance from themselves and keep things going forward with their remote stations.”

A white board sign has been placed on the porch in front of the main entrance of town hall that states, in part: “The Town Hall is Closed Until Further Notice.” It notes that services, such as Rapid Renewal registration, are available on the town website: townofbluehillmaine.org.