Covid in Sudbury: The First Two Years

This webpage is the draft version of Covid in Sudbury: The First Two Years, a project to capture some of history of COVID-19 in Sudbury during the first two years of the pandemic. This is a brief timeline with arbitrary bits of history. The previous Town Historian, Christopher Morely, offers a personal perspective on Covid in Sudbury in the 2020 Town Report.

The Town Manager, Henry Hayes asked me to start this project in the fall of 2021 when I became the Town Historian. I asked him why is it important to record the history of Covid in Sudbury.

It was a challenge to find out any information about the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Now we have some much more information and the ability to store the data that if this happens in 100 years, the leaders will have something to look back on.
case count chart image WholeFoods20200403.jpg

Covid Timeline Hightlights

2020-01-15 - First known travel-related case of coronavirus entered the United States, Wikipedia
2020-02-06 - The first COVID-19 death in the United States, Wikipedia
2020-02-27 - superspreader Biogen Conference ends in Boston. 99 poeple infected.
2020-03-06 SPS: Superintendent's Update / Important Information About COVID-19
2020-03-10 Sudbury Board of Health Notice of Coronavirus Presumptive Positive
2020-03-11 - The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Wikipedia
2020-03-12 SPS: Schools closed until March 30th
2020-03-13 - National Emergency Declared over Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak,
2020-03-15 Board of Selectmen COVID-19 Statement
2020-03-15 - Governor Baker’s Declaration on Public Assemblies AND Temporarily closed K-12 schools until April 6 
2020-03-16 Sudbury Town Buildings closed to public
2020-03-31 SPS: Announcement for Sudbury Learns From Home
2020-04-21 Governor Baker: Extended closure of K-12 schools until June 29 
2020-07-24 SPS: Announcment of Hybrid Learning plans.
2020-08-06 SPS: Preliminary Reopening Plan: in-school, hybrid, or all-remote
2020-03-16 FinCom holds the Town's first virtual meeting on Zoom, Selectmen zoom the next day
2020-03-18 Sudbury Transfer Station stops accepting bulk items. Restarted 2021-05-29
2020-03-18 Sudbury State of Emergency Declaration
2020-03-20 - Social Distancing Advisory: Gatherings Pose High Risk in Spreading COVID-19
2020-03-23 - Governor Baker’s Declaration on Essential Services and Revised Gathering Order
2020-03-31 - Gov. Baker Announces New Actions to Support Ongoing COVID-19 Response  
2020-03-31 - Gov. Baker Extends Non-Essential Business Closures and Executive Branch Employee Guidance
2020-04-10 Message from Dr. Peter Hoenig Sudbury Board of Health Physician regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)
2020-04-28 - Gov. Baker Extends State of Emergency Order to May 18 2020
2020-04-29 Sudbury Face Covering Mandate  
2020-05-07 Essential Services FAQ’s
2020-05-18 - Gov. Baker’s Phased Reopening
2020-05-22 COVID-19 Re-Opening for Businesses 
2020-06-23 Annual Town Election. Postponed from 3/29
2020-07-27 Sudbury COVID Weekly Reported Numbers
2020-09-12 Town Meeting 2020 delayed and held outside on the softball field behind Lincoln-Sudbury High School
2020-11-02 - Governor’s Revised Face Coverings Order No. 55
2020-12-08 - New Quarantine Guidelines
2020-12-08 - Return to Work Guidelines
2020-12-09 - Gov. Baker Announces Initial Steps to Vaccine Distribution
2021-01-14 - Gov. Baker Announces Next Steps in COVID Vaccinations
2021-02-16 - Vaccine to be Distributed to 20 Hardest Hit Communities 
2021-02-23 - Gov. Baker Announces Plans for Continued Reopening
2021-03-10 - Teachers/School Personnel Vaccination Dates Announced
2021-03-12 Town Social Workers post Reopening Workplaces During and After COVID-19: Considerations for Employers
2021-03-17 - Gov. Baker Announces Vaccination Timeline For All Residents   
2021-03-18 - Phase IV Reopening/Gatherings/Travel Advisory/Business Grants
2021-04-27 - Gov. Baker Announces New Steps in Re-opening Plan
2021-07-06 The Town offices reopen to the public
2021-09-01 Sudbury BoH Face Covering Mandate
2021-12-06 - First case of Omicron Variant in Massachusetts  
2022-02-09 – State Education Commission Updates Masking Guidelines  
2022-02-08 Sudbury Board of Health Updates Mask Mandate (drop to mask advisory effective March 7th)
2022-09-19 – President Joe Biden says the pandemic is over. 

The timeline was started from (cached) A great resource!

Some of the above documents and a few others are cached in COVIDdocs and COVIDdocs/SPS The Sudbury Annual Town Reports have a wealth of information aboout how the Town staff and committees handled the pandemic. Those are available under Publications on
  image Town Tweets 2022-03-18

Town Government

[text without links 2022-04-27] In March of 2022, on Friday the 13th, the Select Board issues a COVID-19 statement giving overview of how the Town had been preparing for the coronavirus and that schools were closed. That was the same day as the state and national emergencies were declared. There was an initial shock and the whole world seem to stop. On Monday Interim Town Manager Maryanne Bilodeau sent out email saying that the offices were closed to the public.

Tech savvy individuals on the finance committee held the first zoom meeting Monday night. The next day, Mark Thompson had the Select Board's meeting setup on Zoom. Soon all of the many and varied board and committees business of the town were up and running on zoom.

On Wednesday, the Town Election scheduled for March 30 was postponed to a date tbd. It was held on June 23. The 2020 town meeting was postponed from May 2020 until October 2020.

[ I recall special laws from the state Governor allowed towns to begin the fiscal year without having them properly signed. budget a lot of accommodations were made to keep things moving. But, the historical details need to be filled in.

Henry Hayes becomes Town Manager on April 1, 2020, less that 2 weeks into the pandemic.

The Town's Health Dept. created and still maintains in the spring of 2022, all of the state and town health orders. The Town Social Worker's Comprehensive COVID-19 Resource Guide.

Need test.
Town Social Worker's Comprehensive COVID-19 Resource Guide
The library started loaning things by leaving the material in a weather protected area outside.

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Town Meeting 2020 More Images
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Deborah Kruskal reads Article 1
Town Meetng 2021
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Attendee Checklist for 2021


L.S. & SPS - schools closed immediately by order of the Governor.

Later in March it became clear that learning was going to be remote for a while.

In the fall of 2020, L.S. was scheduled to open in person with strong testing protocols. A teen party on September 12th introduced lots of uncertainty and the decision was made to delay inperson classes at L.S. Press Release

 Sudbury Public Schools Timeline
    2020-03-06 Superintendent's Update / Important Information About COVID-19
    2020-03-12 SPS: Schools closed until March 30th
    2020-03-15 Governor Baker: Temporarily closed K-12 schools until April 6
    2020-03-25 Governor Baker: Extended closure of K-12 schools until May 4
    2020-03-31 SPS: Announcement for Sudbury Learns From Home    
    2020-04-21 Governor Baker: Extended closure of K-12 schools until June 29
    2020-07-24 SPS: Announcment of Hybrid Learning plans.
    2020-08-06 SPS: Preliminary Reopening Plan: in-school, hybrid, or all-remote
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Graduation 2020
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School From Home
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Band Practice with masks



The only stores that were open were essential businesses, food, hardware and chiropractors stayed open. Rte 20 felt like a ghost town initially. It took a while before any traffic started to flow.

Stores and restaurants would bring things to the car waiting outside - still in early spring 2022.

Kirk Dental could not have patients wear masks. They closed for two months - except for emergency situations. In those two months, they upgraded the office ventalation, developed best practices for sterilizing workspaces and stocked up on the best PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

Sudbury Family Chiropractic

Interview with Dr. Robert Maier of Sudbury Family Chiropractic, 2022-04-20
Sudbury Family Chiropractic is an essential service and stayed open throughout the pandemic.

How did you deal with Covid?

"We were aware of the coming pandemic before it was declared, so we ordered ordered 400 masks.

We stocked up on supplies such as lysol, but I did not want people breathing lysol. I went to my dentist and he showed me this machine that can make Hypochlorous acid. It is made from kosher salt, vinegar and water. You cook it in the machine for 15 minutes. It does a good job of cleaning without being destructive to our lungs and tissues.

The next thing we did, which cost us a lot of money, but we did not hesitate, was to get air purifiers. We have one big one in the office which should cover all of the rooms, but we also have one in each treatment room. It has a HEPA filter, so, that cleans out the air. And besides taking particles out of the air, it also spews positive ions into the air which bond with negative ions, possibly the virus."

Houses of Worship

The three congregations surveyed all had similar responses to Covid. In the second or third week in March, they switch to services on Zoom. They stayed for over a year until the vaccines had taken hold. Beth El went back to in person services in June of 2021, while First Parish and Memorial Congregational Church came back inperson in September of 2021. All three congregations returned to Zoom only during the Omicron surge. For more informations see:

More details: Covid response at Beth El, Covid response at First Parish Message 1, FPS msg 2, FPS msg 3, FPS msg 4, MCC history of Covid

Other notes:

An individual was banned from the One Sudbury Facebook group for discussing Covid too much. Many people felt they were “fear mongering”. That person started the Sudbury Unmoderated Facebook group in April, 2020

TODO: Get all of the Town Crier story titles. Some later stories were about vaccines and the controversy about when to go back to school.

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Dunkin' seating closed off
March 18, 2020
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Social Distancing waiting in line
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Mothers Day 2020

Interview with Henry Hayes, Town Manager, on June 29, 2022.

Why is it important to record the history of Covid in Sudbury?

It was a challenge to find out any information about the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Now we have some much more information and the ability to store the data. If this happens in 100 years, the leaders will have something to look back on.

For example, what were some of the methods of tracking the disease back then. Now we have infection and testing rates and more.

What did the Town get right in the Covid Response?

We refused to hinder or stop services. At a time when the globe was essentially at risk of shutting down, we knew that there were some functions that could not stop and there were some measures of normalcy that needed to be attempted to maintain. Another thing I think we got right was looking at the impact on our personnel that a rendered service. We did go into surge operations, but you can't live there. I did not win a whole lot of friends because of my decisions initially, because some of my decisions at the time were not just looking at the moment, but looking at the long term impacts on the staff. An example, we have the Health Department that, during the pandemic, they they spun up with no break, no seam in the fabric. We pressed them for more hours, more time, more tracking, more outcomes. At a certain point, I said,"we need to start looking farther down the road and we need to purposely interject breaks, for our team. People need time off, we hope that people don't get sick, be they are going to get tired. We hope they do not get Covid, but they will get worn out."

I also challenged the department heads to start imagining "next". We needed to be ready for when there is a break in the pressure. We needed to start looking at what the next or new normal would be.

What could the Town have done better?

Do the hard thing of trust. There was a lot of information that was questioned, from the national and global level, or our own Department of Health. There were times when people had less patience and trust. Sometimes the response to an enquiry the response was less than favorable, which caused stress on individuals and families. If we had exhibited more trust, it would have eased the communications. There were additional distractions. One was related to voting and the other was civil unrest across the country. We needed to refocus on what our core elements were and for the professional staff not to get involved in politics or unhealthy debate.

What do you wish you had know at the beginning of the pandemic?

I wish I knew how to make the serum. I wish I knew how to bring people together better.


Interview with Mark Thompson, Technology Administrator for the Town. 2022-11-16

Jan: It is remarkable that the Town offices were closed on Monday (2020-03-16) and on Tuesday night the Select Board's meeting was set up on Zoom. When did you realize that you would need to put all of the meetings on Zoom?

Mark: It was last minute. I had less than a week to get the Zoom accounts established and set up the meetings. I'm sure it was quick and dirty at the beginning, but, it certainly was effective.

One thing I can say happened was that Zoom was a new application for us. I was learning it, and the people who were participating in these virtual meetings were learning it. There was a lot trying this and and adjusting that in terms of settings and things like that. As we started using it, we decided certain setting needed to be turned on.

Jan: It sounds like you started preparing about the same time as the Sudbury Schools Superintendent's Update on COVID-19 (2022-03-10).

Mark: I don't specifically remember, but, I had some time to react. I don't think we could have accomplished that if we were told the day before that this needed to be done. We have had that happened, but, in terms of getting things prepared and getting the accounts established we had a little bit of time.

Then we had to go through training with the Select Board chair and the Town Manager about how they would run the meeting.

Jan: You deserve a lot of credit for getting everything up and running so quickly. What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the pandemic.

Mark: Had I known the pandemic was coming I would have looked at all of the Town laptops because once we knew that everyone was going to be working remotely, we had to have everyone bring them in and update the software and make sure the security setting were proper. We had to teach people to connect to the VPN (Virtual Private Network) and make sure the VPN client was up to date. It would be better to keep them up to date.

Jan: These days there is a strong motivation to keep up to date with security.

Mark: Yes, just the year before Covid, we had updated our firewall and VPN software. We went from software that could only support 10 VPN clients to software that can support an unlimited number of clients. So, when Covid happened and people had to use VPNs from home, the equipment was able to support that without any issue.

Jan: You also deserve credit of the fact that hackers have not held the Town ransom, yet.

Mark: That is a constant battle. We are still working on methods for thwarting that. One of them is security training for staff.

Jan: What do you think that you got right in the early days of the pandemic.

Mark: I think that the way the virtual meetings were organized worked well for us. And we worked with the different committees so when they we were starting to use Zoom, I would always attend that meeting in the background so they had someone to lean on if they had a problem. After a couple of meetings they were comfortable with the technology, so, I think that went well.

One thing that was hard on out department was the scheduling. I had to put together a spreadsheet with dates and times and what Zoom accounts were being used. And I had to make sure that was organized and that people knew which account to use. In the midst of the pandemic, we had a web developer working on the website. I asked if there was any way he could integrate the booking of meetings with Zoom so that when they booked a meeting on the website, it would connect to Zoom and book the meeting there, too. He was able to do that and that took me out of the loop of managing that and making sure there were no conflicts. That worked out really well! We are still using that today. So, the meeting handling is something I'm proud of.

We also concentrated on getting laptops to people so that everybody who needed to work from home had a laptop. Then we work with the phone system vendor and we were able to implement 'jabber connect' which allows people to receive and make calls from the laptop as if they were in the office. So, if someone calls the Select Board's office phone, it rings on the right persons laptop and they would be able to answer the call. And they would be able to place calls as the Select Board's office. That worked out well.

Jan: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Mark: I think the other thing is the collaboration between departments and discussing the issues and coming up with solutions during the pandemic was really helpful. During that time, there were a number of departments that had issues and being able to discuss them with other department heads and the Town Manager and working out solutions was a nice way of doing it. It gave them a sounding board to talk about how the pandemic was affecting their department.

Gail Hardenbergh conducted the following video interviews, of which some highlights were transcribed for the final document: Fred Pryor, Joy Aldrich, Ken Nathanson, Peg Espinola, Reingard Nathanson, Sarah Collmer, Susan Steele

Any stories to add?

image CovidCaseGraph.png

Please send photos, stories and anything else you think will add to our future understanding of the pandemic.

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2022-04-20 - Thank you to Sarah Troiano, Bill Schineller, Debbie Keeney, Rev. Tom O'Brien.
2022-06-30 - Add interview with Henry Hayes, Town Manager, April 2020 .. June 2022
2022-10-XX - Add interview with Mark Thompson,