WOBURN - Taking advantage of an emergency order enacted earlier this month, the City Council held its last meeting in a "virtual" setting in order to limit social gatherings during the ongoing novel coronavirus crisis.
As part of what has become a daily ritual of keeping the public appraised of COVID-19 impacts upon Woburn, Mayor Scott Galvin last Friday announced the City Council and several other government bodies will begin hosting meetings online through Zoom, an Internet-based webinar and video conferencing service.
Galvin included information provided by the council and City Clerk William Campbell in his latest coronavirus update on March 20, when details were also furnished about new operational changes coming to City Hall as the general public is asked to practice social-distancing measures.
The city is able to make the meeting format changes thanks to an executive order approved on March 12 by Governor Charles Baker, who temporarily suspended various provisions of the state's Open Meeting Law in order to allow flexibility during the statewide COVID-19 outbreak.
"Due to the evolving impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Woburn City Council is utilizing the governor's emergency executive order, which suspends certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law," explained City Clerk William Campbell's office, which is responsible for maintaining and posting the City Council's meeting agendas.
"The City Council will hold this meeting as a virtual meeting on Tuesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. To view this meeting on a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone with speakers and a microphone, use this link at the above date and time:
• https://zoom.us/j/805728950?pwd=elBBdEszLzVTdnRJNTQvR0lSZkV3QT09 [and] at the prompt enter the password, 161505," the notice further explained.
Those looking for a link to the Zoom connection can logon to the City of Woburn's homepage and go to the calendar announcement for the City Council's meeting this week. After clicking on the Woburn City Council listing for March 24, the page should be redirected to a meeting agenda description that includes the needed information.
The Zoom service is considered by many software and computer security experts as a safe and secure way to conduct private and public business discussions. Already, many healthcare providers across the state are relying on the service to conduct virtual appointments with their patients— again thanks to emergency orders issued by the state.
Under Baker's March 12 orders, two provisions of the Open Meeting Law were suspended. The first change relates to requirements that a quorum of committee or board members be physically present at a meeting place, while the second temporary revision freezes a requirement that the general public be granted physical access to the location of all public meetings.
"Both the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) have advised residents to take extra measures to put distance between themselves and other people to further reduce the risk of being exposed to COVID-19," Baker's office explained in a prepared statement earlier this month.