August 1, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
In response to reports of a large, unpermitted (by the Hingham Health Department) social event that allegedly took place Thursday night on town property -- at Hingham Harbor -- involving what he called "a group of well over 100 people, many of them HHS seniors" -- Principal Rick Swanson this morning sent a letter to seniors, parents, and others planning to attend today's graduation ceremony. The socially-distanced event is scheduled for 5 p.m. on the turf field.
Swanson said that he, local health officials, and other school administrators were alerted by several concerned citizens, who shared photographs of "prom parties" held that night "in backyards around town," showing students gathered side by side without face masks "that violated a variety of current safety protocols."
The main goal of the letter, he said, was "to ensure full transparency" so that those initially planning to attend the graduation could make an informed decision about whether or not they now wish to do so, at the same time emphasizing the importance of adhering to all safety protocols at the event.
Swanson expressed disappointment "that some Hingham families have disregarded the essential safety regulations put in place by our state government."
School officials consulted with the Hingham Health Department, whose staff contacted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health -- which according to Swanson's letter gave the okay to proceed with the ceremony. (See letter below for details.)
When asked to comment about the incident by the Hingham Anchor, Hingham Executive Health Officer Susan Sarni said she consulted with MDPH several times this morning, including an epidemiologist; Dr. Larry Madoff, Medical Director, Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences; and Monica Bharel MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, "who all weighed in."
Sarni went on to say, "We're taking every precaution, and strict guidelines will be followed for the ceremony," she said. "Everyone will wear face masks and social distance for the protection of all those attending."
Below is the full content of Swanson's letter:
Dear HHS seniors, parents, and others planning to attend the HHS graduation:
Last night, I became aware of a large, unpermitted social event that is alleged to have taken place on town property on Thursday night. According to reports that were shared with local health officials and school administrators, a group of well over a hundred people (many of them HHS seniors) assembled in a manner that violated a variety of current safety protocols (i.e., no masks, no social distance, etc.).
Additionally, a number of people have shared concerns about "prom parties" held on Thursday night in backyards around town. Several concerned citizens have shared photographs that show groups of Hingham students gathered side by side and without masks. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to learn that some Hingham families have disregarded the essential safety regulations put in place by our state government.
Last night and this morning, Hingham school officials consulted with the Hingham Health Department, whose staff contacted the epidemiologist at the MA Department of Public Health. They have advised us to continue moving forward with plans to hold our graduation ceremony today at 5 PM. That decision is based on several factors, including 1) the current absence of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this community [meaning from that event, according to Sarni] and 2) the extensive safety protocols put in place for today's ceremony.
The main goal of my communication to you this morning is to ensure full transparency so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not you wish to attend the ceremony. I also want to emphasize the critical importance of following all safety protocols (e.g., wearing a mask at all times, maintaining social distance, staying home if you don't feel well, etc.) outlined in previous emails. It is absolutely imperative that all attendees adhere to these guidelines.