Watertown Schools Closed Tuesday to Process COVID Pool Testing from First Day Back

The Watertown Public Schools were closed on what was to be the second day back from winter vacation so that COVID-19 tests can processed and those testing positive can be notified. On Monday, Jan. 3, students and staff were tested on the first day after the break. Originally, Tuesday was going to be an early-release day, but Superintendent Dede Galdston announced that schools would be closed so that people who tested positive can be notified. The Superintendent sent out the following announcement:

Good morning,

As we process our pool testing, we have made the decision to close schools for today, Tuesday, January 4.

Retirement Party for City Manager Postponed Due to COVID-19

The retirement party planned for City Manager Michael Driscoll has been postponed due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. Driscoll announced his retirement in June, and will complete nearly 30 years as Town and City Manager of Watertown. He was first hired by Watertown in 1977. The City sent out the following announcement:

Given the current COVID-19 situation, City Council President Mark S. Sideris announced today that the planned January 29, 2022 Event honoring Michael J. Driscoll upon his retirement the end of January after serving our community for 45 years, with the last 29 years as Watertown’s City Manager, has been postponed. We will be sure to let you know the revised date of the Event honoring Mr. Driscoll once it has been determined.

Watertown’s Inauguration Ceremony Canceled Due to Increasing COVID Cases

Watertown City Hall

The Watertown inauguration ceremony has been cancelled due to increasing cases of COVID-19, but the newly-elected officials will still be sworn-in on Jan. 3. City Council President Mark Sideris announced the cancellation on Tuesday. “It is with great regret and with an abundance of caution that we will be cancelling the inauguration that was scheduled for Jan. 3rd,” Sideris said in a statement.

LETTER: Make COVID Rules More Clear This Time Around

The immediate spur for this letter is the board of health’s new order reinstating the indoor mask mandate. I have found it a big source of frustration this entire pandemic that it has often not been all that clear what the rules actually are. I appreciate that the town’s website currently has on the front page the new mask mandate, but how long will this stay up there? Given that a mask mandate is such a sharp difference from everyday life as of 2019, whatever rules we want everyone to follow we should be shouting from the proverbial rooftops. Why can’t we have a permanent feature on the homepage, as well as on any interactive town signage and posted all over town, something like the following:

The “Last Update” part is important, because I found it just as frustrating to discover when requirements were removed as to confirm when they were still in place.

Board of Health Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate Citing Sharp Increases in COVID-19 Cases

People must wear face masks or coverings in Watertown while inside after the Board of Health reinstated the indoor face covering mandate Monday night. Health Director Larry Ramdin said cases of COVID-19 in Watertown have increased sharply since early November, and recommended the indoor face mask mandate be reinstated. The Board of Health voted unanimously to start the mandate on Dec. 21, 2021, and it will be in effect until rescinded by the Board. “We have had an explosion of cases in Town since the 3rd of November,” Ramdin said.

OP-ED: Keep Health Care Workers in Mind, System Strained by More Than COVID

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who represents Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston:

Please keep our health care workers in mind as you make decisions about what COVID risks to take over the coming weeks. As of Tuesday, December 14, there were 1411 people hospitalized with COVID in Massachusetts, of which 326 were in the ICU and 176 were intubated. That is well below the level in the first April 2020 surge when hospitalizations peaked at almost 4,000, yet for a combination of reasons, the hospital system is feeling a lot of strain. Steve Walsh, President of the Massachusetts Hospital Association testified at a hearing on December 16 about the state of the hospital system. He made the following points in his testimony:

Like many employers across the country, hospitals are having difficulty recruiting staff — nurses and behavioral health specialists are most in demand, but all hospital jobs are hard to fill.Caregivers are exhausted and burnt out — many are leaving for other fields or retiring.In the early days of COVID, it was possible to recruit travel nurses — acute surges were happening in only a few states.