AMESBURY — Although five city residents are being tested for the coronavirus, there were no confirmed cases in Amesbury and Salisbury as of Friday afternoon.
Jack Morris, the health officer in Amesbury and Salisbury, said Friday that six Amesbury residents had been tested for the COVID-19 virus with one test as negative.
“We have no cases in Salisbury,” he said. “We had six out for testing in Amesbury and one came back negative. So now we are down to five who are waiting for results.”
According to Morris, COVID-19 testing involves a visit to a primary care doctor who then refers the patient to a testing site. If a patient tests positive for the virus, his or her information will be entered into an online state database which is shared with local health departments.
Morris advised residents to stay at home whenever possible and practice social distancing when out in public.
“If there is a major problem, we are going to have to address it,” he said. “I am going to assume that people are doing what they need to be doing and we don’t really have the resources to keep people driving around all day and seeing what people are doing.”
Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all restaurants and bars in the state to limit their businesses to take out or delivery items only as of March 17.
According to Morris, most of the restaurants and bars in the two communities he covers have complied with the governor’s order but he asked any who are open for anything other than takeout to stop for their own good.
“Please stop,” he said. “If we have to take enforcement action the ramifications can be far greater than just shutting down because you are violating the governor’s order. The Board of Health may look very differently upon all of this, given the public health crisis we are in.”
In addition, Morris said Health Department supplies are beginning to run low. He heads a staff of three in his department.
“People are very perceptive and understanding,” Morris said. “They know that we are trying to do the best that we can. I don’t think anyone is fully equipped for this, even the hospitals. Hospitals are looking for supplies right now. and when they release supplies, everyone thinks the health department is getting them but they are going directly to medical facilities for testing. Those are the front lines right now.
“If and when the testing becomes available, we’re going to have to set up emergency testing sites and need some equipment then. But, until that time, we have very limited supplies for EMS, first responders.”
Morris also said that most of the residents he and his staff have spoken with (remotely) have an understanding of the situation.
“We do not go out and directly come in contact with people,” he said. “Right now, all of the contact tracing and everything we do can be done over the telephone.”
He stressed social distancing and constant hand-washing and sanitizing.
“If you are sick, stay home,” Morris said. “Your employer, at this point, I think would fully understand.”
Morris said anyone having a problem with an employer who is not understanding the situation should contact the Attorney General’s Office at www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-workplace-complaint.
Both Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove and Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington have been holding daily meetings with staff and have been on top of the problem so far, according to Morris.
“The Amesbury and Salisbury response teams are meeting jointly next Wednesday, March 25,” he said. “I think this should be obvious but everyone should know that, when this hits, every community is going to have to draw on resources. We will combine hours and work together.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.