HALLOWELL — A group of doctors recommended Hallowell residents wear masks when out in public on Tuesday, but will not ask the police department to enforce an order.

That recommendation came at a Tuesday Zoom meeting of Hallowell’s Board of Health. The board was formed last month to give guidance to city officials about the coronavirus outbreak, and is made up of doctors Annette Beyea, Sydney Sewall and Scott Schiff-Slater.

On Wednesday, the CDC reported that there were 537 cases of the coronavirus and 14 deaths statewide.

While no vote was taken, all three members of the board agreed on recommending the use of masks. Sewall said studies have shown that there is “minimal, but some, benefit in the terms of people wearing masks not spreading the virus.”

“I think it makes some intuitive sense that if you’re wearing a mask it protects other people from you,” he said. “I don’t think we have to have the policemen going around and telling people to wear masks.”

City Manager Nate Rudy agreed, adding that enforcing a fine would be further than the city would want to go.

Schiff-Slater said city employees should model good behavior when coming into contact with citizens by wearing masks. He recommended that police speak with people who aren’t wearing masks, as they may still carry the virus without showing symptoms.

“I’ve been a little disturbed seeing not many people at all wearing masks,” Schiff-Slater said. “Out on the streets, I see just about nobody wearing a mask.”

Resident Alexandria Aucoin, a marriage and family therapist, said the outbreak could exacerbate domestic violence and mental health problems.

“I’m hearing from clients that I haven’t heard from in a while,” she said. “I’m seeing a huge increase in anxiety and depression and I’m hearing reports … that we’re seeing increase in the groundwork for domestic violence and suicidal ideations.”

Sewall and Schiff-Slater expressed worry for people who are shut-in without access to the internet or a tight-knit community around them. Patel said that state Sen. Shenna Bellows and state Rep. Charlotte Warren were creating lists of people for phone check-ins, but some people may not be aware the list exists.

Warren said a group of more than 80 “helpers” is working on calling 1,899 constituents aged 65 and older in West Gardiner, Manchester and Hallowell to see if they need anything. If they need food or supplies, a helper will go to the store for them.

Warren said some of the people she’s called have scheduled a weekly call to check in, something she said is extremely valuable right now.

“They just appreciate that people are checking in,” Warren said. “One particular woman that I know, she always goes to the State House on Tuesday … and that’s something that’s a big part of her social life and now she’s staying home she really appreciates that we’re calling.”

She said she and Bellows are teaming up to expand into all 11 towns in District 14.  Warren’s group has a website, hallowellhelps.org, where those interested in the service can find contact information.

Beyea said volunteers that call should be equipped with a list of resources, if needed, and Patel said she would compile that list. Sewall suggested Patel join the health board, and she said she would attempt to join each meeting.

The board also briefly discussed restrictions at the city’s brush pile on Fish and Game Road off of Town Farm Road, as city officials received numerous requests for it to open on Tuesday. Rudy said it was difficult for the city to monitor behavior at the property because they cannot station a city employee there.

Sewall said congestion around the brush pile and the nearby public reservoir “isn’t like Vaughans Woods,” which was forced to close over concerns with a lack of social distancing. Sewall said he didn’t see a public health reason for the brush pile to close, as people usually are far from each other when using the resource.

Rudy said the city would monitor activity at the Reservoir as mud season ends and allows for better conditions for walking.

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