TEWKSBURY — Following an approval of minutes of the June 18, 2020 meeting, the Tewksbury Board of Health conducted their meeting via videoconference. Members of the board, along with Health director Susan Sawyer and town nurse Urvi Agarwalla discussed an application for a body art practitioner license for a tattoo artist at Route 38 Tattoo. Having demonstrated compliance with requirements, the application was approved.
The board continued with a discussion about the revision of the body art regulations in Tewksbury. Malpractice insurance, facility type, and additional considerations will be part of the updated regulations, a topic the board has been trying to address for over a year.
Due to the pandemic and other board matters, the revisions have been delayed. The updated regulations will have guidance about specific areas of the body that can be tattooed, such as only below the neck, due to health concerns. The board hopes to have all of the regulations in place by the first of the year.
Body piercing and microblading are topics under consideration, specifically in light of health and safety, and the use of moratoriums given public health concerns.
The board discussed a motion to place a 90 calendar day moratorium on all establishment, practitioner and apprentice permits for all modalities of body art except for tattooing so as to allow time to complete the rewrite of the Tewksbury Board of Health body art regulations, effective Friday, July 17, 2020.
Director Sawyer reported that in the midst of COVID-19, the health department is starting to get back to continuing their regular business, including a soils test for a septic system at Mac’s Dairy Farm, an establishment plan for Aroma Joe’s Coffee, and plans for Theo’s Restaurant on Andover Street.
However, Sawyer said that the majority of the day is spent responding to “anything COVID,” including personal questions, resident observations, or business compliance questions. Sawyer has not issued any warnings or had to escalate any businesses compliance issues with COVID-19 standards and has not had to fine anyone.
Redress from the state extends from verbal warnings to written warnings to fines. Sawyer always takes the position of “education first.” The board is not shutting any business down and she wanted to dispel any rumors to that effect, explaining that the state has a strict guideline for municipal boards of health to follow.
Chairperson Ray Barry addressed a resident concern that a restaurant had been shut down by the board of health for non-compliance, which was not the case. Reiterating director Sawyer’s comments, Barry reinforced that the Tewksbury Board of Health is not shutting down any restaurants for COVID violations, and that there is a strict procedure they must follow.
Barry did explain that a patron must wear a mask if going in to a restaurant for takeout, even if there are diners in a restaurant without masks as they consume their food. Additionally, member Robert Scarano explained that any business owner is at liberty to require that patrons wear a mask to enter their business, and may reject any patron who does not comply.
Any activity that would endanger the health of the owner or his/her employees, or clientele, is within the owner’s right to reject. The only caveat would be in the case that a person has a medical condition, but the owner is given the leeway to accommodate the patron, such as offering to bring an item to a person, outside the premises, Scarano explained.
Town nurse Urvi Agarwalla discussed the topic of flu vaccines. Agarwalla said that while flu shots are advertised as available, she does not recommend residents rush out and get a flu shot in August, as it may not carry the immunity needed into the long flu season ahead. Agarwalla advised waiting until mid-September if possible.
“Don’t try to beat everyone to getting a shot,” Agarwalla said.
Agarwalla explained that residents should seek to be vaccinated before the season, but not so far away from the peak, which is usually in January. Agarwalla encouraged parents to factor in the two dose requirement for young children, and the timing required to space out the doses, which is four weeks.
The Town of Tewksbury will be running the flu clinic again this year but does not have the dates. Vaccines will be offered to the senior population but the details are still being worked out for safety by the health department.
Agarwalla also shared current COVID-19 data, citing 21 active cases as of July 16 in Tewksbury, 13 deaths, and 222 recovered into the community. The numbers do not include congregate sites (shared living) or Tewksbury Hospital.
Contact tracing continues in the community and Sawyer and Agarwalla encourage residents to call them with any questions. Sawyer thanked the school department nurses who have been helping with contact tracing, and thanked Agarwalla who has been handling this issue alone.
The pandemic started just a few weeks after she started her position in town and Agarwalla, and the whole health department team have been doing yeoman’s work on behalf of the community.