Supervisor Flaherty confirms he tested positive for COVID in November
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
The Webster Town Supervisor also explains why he doesn’t wear a mask at board meetings
Webster, NY - Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty recently confirmed that he and his family contracted COVID-19 back in November in his latest “Supervisor’s Corner” column.
“Truth be told, my wife, three kids still living at home, and myself got COVID back in mid-November 2020,” the supervisor writes. “The good news, we all had either NO discernable symptoms, or very mild ones, and by Thanksgiving we were all fine.”
The column was written just weeks after Webster Online asked the supervisor directly whether he had tested positive for COVID. At the time, he did not answer the question, but rather deferred any questions regarding the virus being contracted by any town officials or employees to the town’s director of personnel.
“As Director of Personnel for the Town of Webster, I can confirm that the Town of Webster is following all State and Monroe County procedures for COVID in the workplace,” Personnel Director Brayton Connard told Webster Online in his email response.
“Like most employers in New York, Webster has had employees report positive COVID cases and close exposure to positive COVID cases,” Connard added. “In each case, the [affected] employee has been kept out of the workplace per Monroe County Health Department requirements.”
In another email, Flaherty stated, “With regard to keeping visitors informed and safe, the town health screens every visitor to Town Hall and requires hand sanitizing, mask wearing, and social distancing. Notice of these protocols is posted at the entrance to Town Hall and the Town Board building. Town residents are also encouraged to keep abreast of COVID information by visiting the town website's COVID section.”
Neither Brayton nor the supervisor responded to the question of whether any elected town officials - himself included - had tested positive for the virus.
Webster Online was informed by an anonymous person that, back in November, his wife attended a gathering at which a Town Board member was present. The anonymous person says the gathering took place one night after a Town Board meeting at which the supervisor was observed not wearing a mask while interacting with fellow Town Board members.
The wife of the anonymous person received a phone call from the aforementioned Town Board member’s family a few days following the gathering advising that she be tested for COVID, as the Town Board member had just learned that Supervisor Flaherty had tested positive for the virus.
To confirm dates, Webster Online submitted a FOIL request on Jan. 4 to the Town Clerk asking to review official emails sent to town employees and elected officials notifying them that the supervisor had tested positive.
On Jan. 11, Webster Online was informed that it would take 20 days to process the request for these emails.
On the town website, the supervisor can be observed at every Town Board meeting and Workshop throughout November. He was not wearing a mask. However, he was socially distanced from fellow Town Board members, and those sitting closest to him were wearing masks.
(UPDATE: The supervisor says he was informed on Friday, Nov. 20 at 8 a.m. that his 15-year old son’s Tuesday, Nov. 17 test came back positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, Nov. 24, the supervisor and his wife learned that their Nov. 20 tests came back positive for COVID-19. The last Town Board meeting at which the supervisor was present was Nov. 19. The supervisor’s isolation release date was Nov. 29. Nov. 19 was the last Board meeting prior to Thanksgiving in the month of November. Further, the supervisor asserts that he did not conduct any in-person town business outside of his home during isolation.)
On Jan. 22, Webster Online sent Mr. Flaherty a list of questions, one of which asked why he does “not wear a mask when conducting Town business?” On Jan. 24, the supervisor shared his column confirming that he had tested positive back in November and explaining why he does not wear a mask at meetings.
“Full disclosure... I am an advocate for wearing a mask and try to make sure I do ‘when appropriate based on CDC and Monroe County Health Department issued guidelines,’” Flaherty writes. “I don't wear one when I am on the dais and conducting Town Board meetings. I have been criticized for that.”
He adds, “My reason for not wearing the mask at that time is that I am more than six feet apart from anyone else, and I want to make sure my voice inflection can be heard by ALL in the room and those watching on Spectrum Cable Channel 1303 or livestream on the town website since our meetings during COVID are closed to the public from attending in person.”