Once Again, (Special) Town Meeting Will Be A Virtual Affair

Photo: Mike Widmer, Belmont Town Moderator

While many of the town’s board and committee meetings have returned to in person, the most significant of those will, once again, be held virtually after Belmont Select Board approved a recommendation by Town Moderator Mike Widmer to hold the upcoming Special Town Meeting virtually over the internet.

The three-day meeting is scheduled for Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1.

The reason Widmer said for the continuation of meeting “on-line” was two fold, first pointing to rising numbers of Covid-19 infections returning as the weather turns colder.

According to the website Your Local Epidemiologist, the start of a new Covid wave in Western Europe has begun as hospitalizations are uniformly increasing. “As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, not only are infections increasing, but so is severe disease,” said the website.

Given the U.S. has mirrored European trends throughout the pandemic, a wave in the U.S. is likely coming. And specifically in Boston, “there are concerning signals with sudden increases in viral wastewater levels.”

With the likely return of virial infections, a large indoor setting with 300 people would prove challenging. Town Meeting would take place for four hours over three days either in the new High School auditorium or at the Chenery Middle School, said Widmer. And while a majority of Town Meeting would be comfortable in this setting, “clearly a fraction of Town Meeting members, particularly those who are seniors and immunocompromised would have some risk,” said Widmer.

And while that population would have a choice to attend a movie or eat at a restaurant, “it’s not fair to tell them to choose to not to meet their civic obligation and not attend Town Meeting.”

“I think the prudent thing to do is to continue to meet virtually. We have been successful with the Town Clerk [Ellen Cushman] in doing this well and professionally and with civil debates,” said Widmer.

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