The Revere Board of Health (BoH) held its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, March 24, in the City Council Chambers.
In attendance at the meeting were two of the three board members, Nezha Louaddi and Dr. Craig Costanza, as well as Director of Public Health Lauren Buck; Michael Wells, the cityâ€™s Health Agent/Director of Inspectional Services; and Administrative Assistant Paula Sepulveda.
The principal business taken up by the board was a review and discussion of the proposed regulations for the keeping of chickens by local residents.
The board must establish the regulations in order to implement the action taken by the City Council last year that adopted the Urban Farming Ordinance that allows local residents to raise bees and chickens. The board adopted regulations for the keeping of bees late last year and has been in the process of adopting regulations for the keeping of chickens.
The board held a lengthy discussion of the proposed chicken-keeping regulations at its February meeting and directed Buck to come back in March with a final version of the regulations.
Among the highlights of the proposed regulations noted by Buck at the February meeting were:
— The chickens must not constitute a nuisance to neighbors. Roosters and crowing hens are not permitted. The total number of chickens is limited to six. The Board of Health (BoA) may order chickens removed if they are deemed to be a health nuisance.
— There are requirements for the construction of chicken coops that must comply with state and municipal building codes. In addition, there must be a minimum and maximum size for both the coop and a minimum ground surface area for an enclosed chicken run outside of the coop. Chicken coops cannot be located in a front yard and must adhere to the same setback requirements as any other structure (five feet on the side and two feet in the rear from abutters). The coop also must be sufficiently distanced from high water marks and sources of drinking water. In addition, they must be completely enclosed and constructed so as to keep out pests and predators.
— All noise ordinances must be observed.
— Chicken-keeping must be done in a humane manner.
— Keepers must discard bedding and waste material in compliance with regulations. â€œThere is a composting element of the bedding and waste products,â€ said Buck in February. â€œWe want to encourage composting, but make sure itâ€™s done responsibly.â€
— No odors can be perceptible at the property lines.
— All chickens must be confined to the license holderâ€™s property at all times. Hens may not be kept inside a personâ€™s home, except in certain emergency situations.
— Chicken feed must be kept in a pest-proof container or inside a pest-proof run.
— Chickens may not be butchered in front of neighbors and the meat may not be sold.
— Deceased chickens must be wrapped properly if they are to be thrown out with the regular waste. If they are buried in a yard, they must be buried at least two feet deep and 1000 feet away from a water source and covered by a heavy object so as not to be dug up by animals.
— A license is required to keep chickens at a cost of $50 initially and then $25 annually. The BoH must hold a public hearing before issuing a license. Abutters must be notified in writing of a license application and have the right to voice their objections. Renters must have the consent of their landlord. Applicants are required to present a scaled drawing of the property, a detailed waste-management plan, a sick chicken plan, and an emergency evacuation plan.
— The BoH can make inspections and order that chickens be removed if there is a public health issue.
The board in February also heard from a chicken-keeping expert, who offered a number of suggestions for the BoH to fine-tune the regulations pertaining to: the composting containers to be required for the composting of the bedding and waste; the wording about the requirement that the chickens must be kept on the property at all times inside an enclosure; and the storing of feed, among others.
The commissioners said they had reviewed the revised proposed regulations and had no questions for Buck. They then voted 2-0 to approve the regulations. Buck provided them with a copy of the regulations to be signed, making it official.
The board also approved the cityâ€™s first-ever bee-keeping license to Damian DeMarco. Buck informed the board that the Health Department had inspected the premises of Mr. DeMarco and found him to be in compliance with all of the regulations. She recommended that the license, which will be good for a year and must be renewed annually, be approved.
The board voted 2-0 to approve the license request.
Earlier in the meeting, Buck presented the Health Departmentâ€™s monthly report. She said there were 17 confirmed influenza cases in the city in the past month, with the patients ranging in age from 3 to 85 years old, which she said is â€œpretty typicalâ€ of the age range for the illness.
â€œThe influenza season was less severe this year because of the mask precautions that have been in place,â€ Buck noted.
She also reported that there were two confirmed cases of hepatitis and two food-borne illnesses in the city this past month.
Buck presented a report issued on March 18 by the federal CDC that highlighted the growing problem of tobacco use by means of e-tobacco products by the nationâ€™s youth in the age groups for middle school and high school youth.
She said the CDC estimates that there are 2.3 million underage users of tobacco products. She noted that tobacco use is greater in some youth sub-groups, including those with mental health issues.
Buckâ€™s monthly COVID-19 report revealed that the number of reported cases in the city now totals 21,834. However, she said that the confirmed number of COVID-19 deaths has been revised downward by the state to 178. Buck had reported a total of 197 deaths in Revere caused by COVID-19 at the February meeting.
She said the decrease is attributable to the adoption by Massachusetts of the standards used by the federal government for attributing deaths to COVID-19.
Although Buck reported that the positivity rate in the city has declined significantly over the past two months, she warned that the new surge of COVID-19 cases in Western Europe, which is attributable to the prevalence of the latest Omicron variant (â€œOmicron Bâ€), might foreshadow an increase in cases here in the coming months.
News reports already indicate that Omicron B, which is even more transmissible than Omicron A, is becoming the dominant variant in the U.S.
The board heard a lengthy presentation from Ann Marie Kissel, who is the Regional Epidemiologist for the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative, which consists of Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.
Kissel presented a number of graphs that showed the weekly incidence of COVID-19 in the city over the past two years, the vaccination rates in the city, and the rate of infection and serious illness for those who receive booster shots vs. those who either are completely-unvaccinated or who have not received a booster.
â€œThe goal of the date is to show the benefits of receiving a booster,â€ said Kissel.
Kissel then discussed the possible future of COVID-19 and at what point it becomes endemic after going through the epidemic and pandemic phases.
There have been four other pandemics in the past 100 years, in 1918-19, 1957, 1968, and 2009. The three post-1918 pandemics were significantly less severe than the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. Interestingly, Kissel noted that the particular flu virus that caused the famous 1918-1919 pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million persons across the globe, continued in circulation for 38 more years.
However, Kissel acknowledged the limitations of making future predictions about the course of COVID-19 based on these past pandemics.
â€œThe coronavirus is a different disease than an influenza virus, so itâ€™s difficult to predict whether the coronavirus pandemic will have the same result as the flu pandemics,â€ she said.
She also noted that the flu season, which typically peaks in late winter, has peaked the past two years in early winter and have overlapped with the early-winter surges in COVID-19, which Kissel said corresponds to the period immediately after the holiday season, when people are more likely to gather.
She then discussed what the future of the coronavirus might look like if it becomes endemic.
â€œIf itâ€™s like the flu, we can predict it and manage it,â€ said Kissel.
In addition, she noted, â€œVaccines are not effective at preventing transmission of COVID-19, but highly-effective against high sickness and death.â€
She also explained that the new metrics being used by the federal CDC are not looking solely at the level of transmission, but also now include the levels of severity, hospitalization, and death, with an eye toward determining the burden on the healthcare system.
In conclusion, she noted that the levels of COVID-19 in the No. Suffolk communities are very low at the present time.