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Easton Board of Health Approves Regulation For Mosquito-Born Illness Containment

With the regulation, the Board of Health now has the authority to issue a nighttime activities ban in public places.

The Easton Board of Health approved a Regulation Tuesday night that provides it with the authority to issue a nighttime activity ban in public places due to mosquito-borne illness such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) or West Nile virus.

The vote was taken after a spirited two hour public hearing that included arguments for and against the Regulation.

Board of Health members Gil Heino and Scott Aronson voted 2-0 in it's favor and defended the Regulation against residents who felt it was an example of an "overreach." Board Chair Jennifer Nichols was not present at the hearing due to a previously scheduled vacation.

Heino and Aronson were joined by Health Agents Mark Taylor and Kristin Kennedy, Town Counsel Jay Talerman and Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach.

“Easton is actually the town in the state that has the highest risk of any community," said Auerbach. The commissioner explained that 68 EEE positive mosquito pools have been found in the past two months in the Shovel Town.

Residents at the hearing were provided with an updated version of the Regulation and were given a 10 minute recess so they could read it. Board members said it was updated after they heard input from residents. It added wording to exclude privately held residential property from being affected and to limit first offense fines to no more than $100.

It also ensured that sufficient notice be given to private property owners such as golf courses or colleges and that a management plan be put in place for those properties should a ban occur.

Despite the changes, many residents expressed opposition.

Carol Neslter said residents should be able to make their own risk assessments. She said the likelihood of contracting EEE was low, and the Regulation was a "knee-jerk reaction." She asked why daytime activities weren't banned to avoid skin cancer since that disease was much more prevalent.

Meredith Keach echoed Nestler's sentiments and added that she felt the Regulation was intentionally broad, and would give the Board and future Boards a "carte blanche" (blank check) ability.

She said that should a parent feels it is unsafe for their child to participate in activities, they should prevent the child from doing so.

"I resent that you’re taking away my right as an informed citizen to make decisions for myself or my family," she said.

Heino and Aronson countered, saying they received more calls calling for the Board to act on the EEE threat.

Heino said he didn't want pressure put on parents to continue to allow children to participate in unsafe nighttime activities.

Taylor said other towns moved forward on a ban without enacting a regulation. Easton's Board of Health, at the advisement of Talerman, decided to enact a regulation, which required a public hearing.

"Other towns just used Mass General Laws, went forward and enacted a ban – that’s it, they did it," he said. "Knowing the town and the educated population here, [we thought] they ought to be able to come here and speak their peace."

Oliver Ames Athletic Director was present at the meeting to suggest language be added to any ban proposed that allowed for temperatures to be taken into consideration since mosquitoes are less active at lower temperatures.

Oliver Ames Football Boosters President Bill Gagliardi asked that if a ban were imposed, it be re-evaluated frequently to take into account changes in conditions or risk.

Currently, due to the EEE threat.

Talerman said that as the ban is drafted with the right wording, it could have as much flexibility as the Board chooses.

"So long as we can word it appropriately in our orders, we can move quickly," he said. "That will be the next challenge."

With the Regulation enacted, no plans are currently in place to enact a ban. Board members said they would continue to look at EEE data while making a decision on whether or not to put a curfew in place.

Bob Havey September 05, 2012 at 01:40 PM
The reach of the 'Nanny State' continues to expand. I know the BOH thinks they're acting responsibly and in the best interests of the citizenry, but doing the wrong thing for the right reason doesn't make it right. Is this even legal? If it is, it shouldn't be!
Jim C September 05, 2012 at 02:21 PM
The BOH went ahead and enacted this anyways given the strong opposition from Easton residents. That is it folks. This is the way it is unless folks get out there and vote in the local elections. Mr. Aronson is up for election next year so lets start with sending him a message.
bchillin54 September 05, 2012 at 02:35 PM
At least Barney Frank is gone. One thing at a time. Hopefully citizens of Southeastern Massachusetts will start to open their eyes. I am American first, but of Irish and Italian decent, raised Catholic, surrounded by pro-Union messaging and progressive politics my whole life. The middle class of Massachusetts needs to wake up and realize that the old ways have only caused government debt, higher taxes, less economic stability, and less individual liberties. IT IS TIME TO LIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS! Vote David Steinhoff if you want a true conservative.
JF September 05, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Mr. Aronson, we might not be able to stop you from voting for ridiculous totalitarian laws, but we sure can elect someone else in your place next year.. most of Easton usually ignores these local elections, but this one will be special. We are going to turn out en masse and elect whoever runs against you.
Janet Sroczynski September 05, 2012 at 04:07 PM
When I met with Mark Taylor this morning at town hall, here are a few of the names provided to me who have been actively involved in this: 1) John Auerbach - Commissioner of the Department of Public Health c/o 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108 at telephone 1.617.624.6000 and info found at: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dphl 2) Kevin Cranston - Infectious Disease Prevention, Response and Services at telephone 1.617.624.5300 and on organizational chart: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/commissioner/org-chart.pdf - July 2012 memo/online. 3) Katie Brown - State of Massachusetts Public Health Veterinarian at Massachusetts Department of Public Health; view her profile on LinkedIn. If interested, Mark Taylor can be reached at: email: mtaylor@easton.ma.us or by telephone: 1.508.230.0620 or 1.508.230.0629
Scott Aronson September 05, 2012 at 04:23 PM
It's Dr. Aronson and I would encourage others to get involved in local politics instead of complaining...Also, thank you to all those that support (and encouraged) the Easton BOH decision to approve the Regulation.
Ben Hampton September 05, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I would like to know how the BOH has the authority to enact such wide ranging legislation without approval from at the very least the Board of Selectmen. BTW - what is the Board's opinion of this? I see no reason for this regulation - whatever happened to common sense? I could not find a copy of the newly reworded regulation online (how convenient for the Board), so I am going off of what was listed in the article. Private residences are now excluded (should we genuflect at their magnaminity?). So all non-private areas are under the proposed bans. So now dog walking is potentially a crime. Walking for exercise is now potentially a crime. Visiting a neighbor by crossing the street is now potentially a crime. Grocery shopping is now potentially a crime - are the businesses of Easton expected to close so they will not aid and abet in violations of this potential ban? I know I speak in somewhat sarcastic tones. But this is the Pandora's box that this new regulation potentially opens. It serves no purpose. I do not wish to speak lightly of EEE or West Nile or any illness we may be at risk for. But as other's have stated, and the BOH has blindly ignored, this takes the decision for a person completely out of that person's control when there is no need for it. We have survived for over 200 years without it. We did pretty well this year without it. We can survive for another 200 years without it.
Jimmy Donnelly September 05, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Oh pardon us Dr. Scholls, you're arrogance is magnificent. I've got this wart that I just.....never mind.
Bob Havey September 05, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Those who insist on titles do so because it gives them a false sense of competence.
Elaine Dahlgren September 05, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Our rights are slowly being taken away. Sad
Jim C September 05, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Hi Elaine, It is sad, and the damage is done...However, it doesn't have to be permanent. The doctor is up for election next year. We need to run or find a qualified candidate to run for BOH next year and motivate our friends and family to get out there and vote for whomever is running against Dr. Aronson (to correct my earlier "mistype"). From there, we need to NOT FORGET about this and continue the trend by getting Gil Heino and Jennifer Nichols removed (while she did not vote, she was a strong proponent of this). Also, I should mention the "matter of fact" dictatorial tone of the comments from Counsel Talerman are very concerning, but let me stay on point in regards to the Board of Health. We can show them that the citizens of Easton are determined and have a long memory.
Douglas Watts September 05, 2012 at 07:46 PM
The risk of contracting EEE, though statistically less likely than getting struck by lightning, can be reduced on town property by limiting activities at dusk until mosquitoes become inactive within the next few weeks. And the purpose of trapping and testing mosquitoes for EEE is precisely to gage the possible public health threat. It would seem counterproductive to acquire this information and then not use it.
Janet Sroczynski September 05, 2012 at 09:19 PM
This is what was handed to me this morning...a one page memo that states: Part I - Administration of the Government (Chapters 1 through 182); Title XVI:Public Health;Chapter 111/Public Health;Section 122:Regulations relative to nuisances; examinations. Section 122. The board of health shall examine into all nuisances, sources of filth and causes of sickness within its town, or on board of vessels within the harbor of such town, which may, in its opinion, be injurious to the public health, shall destroy, remove or prevent the same as the case may require, and shall make regulations for the public health and safety relative thereto and to articles capable of containing or conveying infection or contagion or of creating sickness brought into or conveyed from the town or into or from any vessel. Whoever violates any such regulation shall forfeit not more than one thousand dollars. Source cited: http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXVI/Chapte111/Section122/....dated: 08/24/2012. Page 1 of 1.
Janet Sroczynski September 05, 2012 at 09:28 PM
The 2nd page of the memo I was handed reads as follows: Part I: Administration of the Government (Chapters 1 through 182); Title XVI:Public Health;Chapter 111:Public Health;Section 104: Prevention of spread of infection; public notice; removal. Section 104: If a disease dangerous to the public health exists in a town, the selectmen and board of health shall use all possible care to prevent the spread of the infection and may give public notice of infected places by such means as in their judgement may be most effectual for the common safety. Whoever obstructs the selectmen, board of health or its agent in using such means, or whoever wilfully and without authority removes, obliterates, defaces or handles such public notices which have been posted, shall forfeit not less than ten nor more than one hundred dollars. Source cited: http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXVI/Chapter111/Section104/...dated: 08/24/2012. Page 1 of 1.
Scott Aronson September 06, 2012 at 12:44 PM
FYI...40 dead from West Nile in Texas http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/40-dead-from-west-nile-in-texas/west-nile/
Meredith Keach September 06, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Ben you can't find that newly reworded regulation because they didn't have it at the hearing - nor is it posted. They gave the public what town counsel said was the wrong version and yet they made no attempt to correct the error. In addition, they scheduled the hearing at a time when the chairwoman could not be present. Regardless of any of that the doctor and Gil had their minds made up before the public hearing. This regulation does NOT exclude private property because the wording for any type of ban or curfew has NOT been drafted yet. The regulation simply gives them the legal ability to draft whatever the three see fit. When asked if a group of men wants to go out and play a game of pick up basketball could/would they be restricted? The doctor's response was, "yes, if the ban were in place." This is not just about protecting the children of our community from the horrors of what the volunteers and coaches have scheduled. What they've done has worked and they clearly should end it there. Given that they are not, I am led to believe there is a greater agenda here and it's not just protecting the public.
Meredith Keach September 06, 2012 at 01:01 PM
How many died from other health related incidences - heart disease, stroke, cancer, salmonella, e-coli (perhaps you should be restricting the community from drinking from our own town wells...) ... no one is questioning the seriousness of EEE or West Nile, Scott. What is absurd is your obvious overreach for power and control. The board's (or should I say the board minus the chair) vote for the regulation, in my opinion, does not constitute reasonable action. The word reasonable is what is in question here. In addition, you did not inform the public adequately at the hearing. According to town counsel you gave the public an incorrect version from what you planned to pass. Help those 25 parents that contacted you who refuse to parent find their own voices rather than controlling the actions of the rest of the community. What you have done thus far has worked. Pat yourself on the back. You can put your head on your pillow each night and tell yourself you have done a good job. At a certain point individuals need to take the information they've been given and be responsible for their own actions and the actions of their families. You as a doctor should know that more closely than anyone.
Meredith Keach September 06, 2012 at 02:12 PM
When the ban goes into effect... if I find a mosquito in my home should I call 911? If I do will I be penalized?
Janet Sroczynski September 06, 2012 at 02:36 PM
@Patrick Maguire -where you covered this story and reported on it for the Easton/Patch, and as follow up to my request to you to provide additional documents in the form of online PDF files and updated Regulations pertaining to this recent meeting, could you provide those updates for us. Thanks.
Patrick Maguire (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 02:45 PM
A .pdf is attached to this article. The Town also posted a copy on its website. http://www.easton.ma.us/Directory/board_of_health/BOHMosquitoControl.html
Jimmy Donnelly September 07, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Quotes from Gil Heino in response to too many people who "..are unaware of the actual facts." : "The B.O.H. has worked many hours trying to resolve the problem" "was done under the pressure of a critical alert" "We did not have the time" "we did not have the state of mind to analyze each and every word" "We are trying to protect children whose parents feel the pressure.." So....you worked many hours, but you also "did not have the time"? Other than pressure to alert the public, what pressure where you under to draft this regulation and who applied that pressure? You are an 11 YEAR MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF HEALTH and you didn’t have the state of mind to do the job safely, smartly and the correct way? When did it become YOUR job Mr. Heino, to protect children from their parents? This board is an abject failure and a absolute embarrassment to the citizens of Easton. The people of Easton, a majority I'm sure, will gladly accept your resignation and fill your vacant seats quickly. Thank you for your 11 years, but it's time to go sir.
Douglas Watts September 07, 2012 at 03:50 PM
The BofH's authority in this case extends only to town property, which its members acknowledge and the approved order explicitly states. It is fundamentally about risk prevention using the tools which Mass. Law provides to town Boards of Health based on credible scientific evidence. At minimum, the Board's order and decision sends a clear message to parents they should be cognizant of the existing EEE risk to their children at dusk. The Board's enforcement power, as stated in the order itself, is quite nil, but acts as a proper message to school administrators, teachers and coaches. who act 'in loco parentis' (as the parents) for children under their charge during a scheduled school activity.
Meredith Keach September 07, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Mr. Watts, You do understand that the passing of the regulation is simply the first step and a notification of what may be drafted... This gives the board the ability to quickly draft and issue any type of order that they see fit. The regulation is merely a guideline. Every parent I have encountered is certainly cognizant of the existence of EEE, West Nile and nearly every other illness that mosquitoes can transmit. It's your type of comment that I find most offensive. That somehow we as parents are asleep at the wheel. Parents in Easton are very aware and very involved in their children's lives. Knowing the research and care that I take with my own children I resent that you would think that I would not take this type of illness seriously. Given that it's the board's job, in my opinion, to INFORM to the best of their ability and not parent. Leave the parenting to the parents. Aside from that not all residents of Easton are parents. This regulation and ban that will be drafted will affect all residents of Easton. Every organization that hosts events for our children have been mindful and taken all steps to abide by the BOH's recommendations. Those 25 parents that you speak of wanted practice stopped. They feel that if they take their kids out of practice in an environment that they deem dangerous their children will suffer greater by losing practice than the risk of EEE. I know this because I have spoken with them.
Sinclair September 07, 2012 at 04:43 PM
If the B of H were to order a fleabag hotel, a cockroach restaurant or a polluted pond to close, I certainly hope they would somehow insure the protection of a community's children located within the epicenter of deadly killer mosquitoes. Praise to the B of H for their concerns and high standards.
Sinclair September 07, 2012 at 04:55 PM
In adverse weather conditions, perhaps parents should decide to keep their children home rather than depend on the school system to close the schools. Based on your comments, all parents would be aware of bad weather by looking out the window and the decision would be theirs.
Douglas Watts September 07, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Thanks Meredith. The BofH only has authority, in this case and order, over activities conducted on town property, primarily school activities. For example, I cannot imagine the EPD patrolling Wheaton Farm to arrest hornpout anglers at Wards Pond for violating the BofH regulation, which as the order itself shows, has minimal actual enforcement effect. Aside from requiring every Easton parent sign a legal waiver which releases the town and school department from all liability for their kids getting EEE on a school activity on town property at dusk, I cannot imagine a less intrusive decision by the BofH except doing nothing. I guess another way to say this is that a school athletic coach has an affirmative obligation to remove kids holding aluminum bats in a ball field during a lightning storm.
Jimmy Donnelly September 07, 2012 at 05:28 PM
"we did not have the state of mind to analyze each and every word" High standard indeed.
Carol Nestler September 07, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Douglas, As town counsel explained in the public hearing there is absolutely no liability to the town or it's board memebers with or without regulations or a ban.
Carol Nestler September 07, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Sinclair, There are so many more things "statistically" speaking that could harm our children. There are close to 60,000 people a year and almost 9000 deaths annually from skin cancer. Shouldn't we have a ban on all outdoor activities from 10 to 3 everyday. The BOH should be giving us the facts and letting us make the decisions for our families. Let's not forget that this is not a communicable disease and can not be spread from one person to another. Those who choose to go out at disk do not put anyone else in harms way. This is over reach and knee jerk reaction.
Sinclair September 07, 2012 at 10:08 PM
You may be on to something, It looks like we might see a ban on tanning salons someday soon. I agree with the B of H and their high standards and concern for the children in our community.

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