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New Ipswich adopts policy to allow quarantine exemptions for critical employees

  • Town of New Ipswich. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Copyright Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to news@ledgertranscript.com. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/25/2020 4:25:09 PM

New Ipswich has adopted new COVID-19 policies to allow quarantine exceptions for first responders who have been exposed to the virus but aren’t exhibiting any symptoms.

Fire Chief Meredith Lund said in small towns, there’s no way to get around the need for personnel. While the town should take precautions, there may be circumstances where following the strictest quarantine protocols would leave the town without its needed critical employees.

“There are risks in all of this, the question is, how do we manage those risks to the best of our ability,” Lund said. “...Hopefully, we never have to use it.”

During its meeting Tuesday, the Select Board adopted both a series of risk-management procedures from its insurance provider and some state guidelines to its COVID-19 employee policies.

Lund advocated for the board to adopt an exemption procedure for vital town employees who have been possibly exposed to COVID-19, but are asymptomatic. She noted that New Ipswich attended a training scenario with a Peterborough firefighter who tested positive for COVID-19 shortly thereafter.

Luckily, none of the New Ipswich crew was exposed; if they had been, Lund said, a significant portion of her volunteer force could have been required to quarantine for two weeks.

“As a small department, I can’t lose five guys,” Lund said.

The state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control allows exemptions to quarantine requirements for those who work in the critical infrastructure sector.

In the exemption, the employee would self-quarantine for all other purposes than reporting to work, and must wear a mask and maintain six feet of separation from other employees and customers, and must have daily health screenings.

Lund requested the town adopt this policy, saying that there are critical jobs that can be carried out by firefighters on a fire scene while maintaining distance from other firefighters and with no contact to the public. She said members who are under a quarantine exemption would not attend mutual aid calls to other towns, and would be on a “short leash” as far as what duties they could and could not perform. However, she said, even with those restrictions, the department would need a complete roster to function.

Employees wouldn’t be eligible to come to work if their exposure was from someone in their own household, or if they were showing symptoms.

The board agreed in a 2-0 decision to adopt the state’s guidelines as town policy.

The policy also requires those with COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate at home for 10 days, or return to work with a negative COVID-19 test after being fever-free for 24 hours without medication.


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