Acushnet Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher statement about positive COVID test results after town testing

A message from Chief Kevin Gallagher:

“We just completed a six-hour Covid testing clinic which, for the first time, utilized rapid tests. A total of 530 Acushnet residents participated. A total of 15 new cases in Acushnet were identified.

“Those who tested positive received a call from me informing them of their results. That was tough to do. Almost all were caught by surprise. All mentioned that they will now do the right thing and quarantine.

“Texts went out to all those that tested negative. If by chance the text failed to connect please know that if we didn’t connect you tested negative. We apologize for the few hours it took to send the initial round of texts. We serviced a large number of people with a core group of extraordinary staff.

“Tomorrow, I will be thankful for my health, that of my family and friends as well as the 515 Acushnet residents who tested negative for Covid today.

“And I will say a prayer for the 15 residents who didn’t”. -Kevin.

Six New Bedford bars fined for violating COVID-19 orders to protect residents

The New Bedford Health Department has issued fines to six New Bedford businesses for failure to comply with the City’s COVID-19 regulations and protections for residents.

Whiskey Lounge at 1669 Acushnet Avenue, and Sebastian’s at 110 County Street, were each fined $300 for failure to comply with mask-wearing regulations.

Legends at 78 Covell Street was fined twice, $300 and $600, for violations on two consecutive days, for failure to comply with mask-wearing regulations and social distancing.

New Bedford Bar & Grill at 116 County Street, and The Bar at 266 Dartmouth Street were each fined $600 for violations of the social distancing and mask-wearing regulations.

Freddie’s Café at 175 Sawyer Street was fined $600 for failure to comply with mask-wearing regulations and for permitting dancing at its establishment, which is not permitted under COVID-19 safety regulations.

Violation orders were issued November 20 after inspections by the New Bedford Health Department. Businesses and employees are reminded to comply with mask-wearing to keep themselves and others safe.

Earlier this year, Mayor Jon Mitchell and the Board of Health announced emergency orders to keep employees safe at their place of work, and to outline reporting requirements of COVID-19 in the workplace. The orders include strong measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces

Businesses will be subject to fines for failure to comply with the City’s orders, including failure to protect employees and failure to notify the Health Department of an outbreaks. The orders can be found on New Bedford’s COVID-19 webpage:

Massachusetts records 50,000 COVID-19 in 25 days

Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

In a sign of the power of the second COVID-19 surge that has been underway, Massachusetts jumped from 150,000 cumulative cases to 200,000 in just 25 days. Getting from 100,000 to 150,000, by comparison, took from June 1 until Oct. 28, a stretch of 149 days. More than 5,700 additional COVID-19 cases were confirmed over the weekend and the state hit another harrowing milestone Sunday by surpassing 200,000 confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic.

While new cases are being detected and counted in daily totals similar to those last seen in the spring, far more tests are being conducted this fall and the positive test rate is significantly lower than during the initial peak.

The 5,712 new cases reported across Saturday and Sunday came alongside reporting of 219,519 new tests, and the seven-day average positive test rate dropped from 3.5 percent last week to 3 percent on Saturday. Hospitalization data showed mixed trends over the weekend as the Baker administration prepares to reestablish field hospitals in case they become necessary.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases among hospitalized patients dropped from 904 on Friday to 893 on Sunday, but the count of cases in intensive care units increased over the same span from 179 to 192. The number of patients intubated also grew from 75 on Friday to 88 on Sunday. Statewide, 69 percent of non-ICU hospital beds and 53 percent of ICU beds were occupied Sunday, including both COVID cases and unrelated hospitalizations.

Massachusetts Police and health officials to enforce COVID-19 guidelines with hefty fine and non-compliance hotline

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has created a year like no other in recent memory. We’ve heard stories about wildfires in Australia and California, murder hornets, deaths of George Floyd and subsequent riots, protests, and unrest, locust plague in Kenya, economic hit, loss of jobs, closing of businesses, the loss of Kobe Bryant, Sean Connery, Chadwick Boseman, and Alex Trebek, deadly train derailments, plane crashes, earthquakes, and flash floods that return of Ebola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Beirut chemical explosion, postponement of the Summer Olympics, and while not deadly we had a minor earthquake in Dartmouth. And with how 2020 was unfolding an earthquake surprised, but shocked – pardon the pun – no one.

2020 isn’t over: we have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve to celebrate. While a time when the economy gets a boost from all the plane, car, and train travel and families gather around a table – often after not having seen each other in a long while.

Of course, that too will be affected, even ruined in some cases, because well…it’s 2020.

How will the COVID-19 effect our holiday celebrations? For starters, Massachusetts health officials have set guidelines:

• No more than 10 people allowed in a household.
• Everyone must leave the gatherings and go home by 9:30pm.
• Wear a mask when not eating or drinking.
• Stay at least six feet apart from others.
• Keep visits short.
• Do not share food, drink, or any utensils.
• For 14 days after the gatherings, minimize contact with other people and only leave home for essential services like going to work, buying groceries, and appointments with doctors.

While proponents of these guidelines feel these will best protect the community by limiting the spread of the coronoavirus, opponents call them draconian measures that trample constitutional rights.

Expecting residents to resist the guidelines, Massachusetts has put a plan in place to address it: non-compliance to these specifics will draw the attention of the police and health departments who have been given the authority to enforce them. That means you may be hit with a hefty fine of $500.

The state is so serious about enforcing these guidelines that they have created a non-compliance hotline where you can call and report your neighbor for violations.

What will you be doing differently, if anything, this year? Let us know in the comments.

New Bedford will pause bar area seating due to Thanksgiving travel

In an effort to stay ahead of rising cases of COVID-19 expected after travel due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the City of New Bedford will prohibit bar area seating over the long holiday weekend.

Bar seating will pause from Wednesday, November 25 through Sunday, November 29, as travel is expected to increase, including from parts of the country where COVID-19 cases are significantly higher than in Greater New Bedford. This pause in bar seating is intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the only public, indoor gathering environment where individuals are in close proximity to one another without masks. It is a proactive step to avoid necessitating further restrictions on gatherings in the weeks following the holiday.

Indoor dining with seating at tables, as well as outdoor dining, will remain in place in accordance with the state’s guidelines.

In another step to prevent spread of the virus after the holiday, employers in New Bedford are encouraged to allow employees to work remotely wherever possible for at least the following two weeks.

City government offices will also increase the number of employees working remotely rather than in person over this period. Limited in-person hours at the City Clerk’s Office, Treasurer’s office, Election Commission Office, and Licensing Board will continue at City Hall Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

“The temporary pause on bar seating is a proactive step to prevent a significant spread of the virus in New Bedford at a time when people are traveling from other parts of the country and could gather indoors at close proximity with many other people, without wearing a mask,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “The extended Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally one of the busiest occasions for bars, with many typically filled with patrons returning home for the holiday. The influx of holiday travelers and close proximity to one another creates a heightened risk for disease transmission. We don’t want to find ourselves in a far more serious situation in a few weeks, where we need to take more drastic and long-term measures, and look back on what simple steps we could have taken to prevent further transmission of the virus.”

City residents are also encouraged to take advantage of take-out dining at local restaurants to support local businesses. The City’s Health Department strongly urges Thanksgiving celebrations to be limited only to the people in your household, in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading during the holiday.

Mayor Mitchell also strongly encouraged all employers to offer remote work for the two weeks following Thanksgiving to every employee possible.

“Employers should actively seek out ways to accommodate remote work wherever feasible,” he said. “The New Bedford Health Department’s contact tracing data indicates that workplaces are the single largest exposure locations for transmission and spread of the virus. While the data shows that most workplace spread among city residents has occurred at workplaces outside New Bedford, it will be important to limit in-person contact as much as possible after the holiday. The City will continue to keep its non-essential staff as remote as possible, and I encourage businesses with the same ability to allow remote work as much as they can.”

Southeastern Massachusetts, along with the state’s general trend, has seen an increase in transmission of COVID-19 in the past month. New Bedford has stringently enforced strong public health actions to keep residents safe, including at businesses that serve the public. Earlier this year, Mayor Jon Mitchell and the Board of Health announced emergency orders to keep employees safe at their place of work, and special rules concerning industrial workplaces. The orders continue to be enforced and include strong measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces.

Acushnet to hold pre-Thanksgiving rapid testing clinic for COVID-19

With the support of the Board of Selectmen, we will be holding a RAPID TESTING CLINIC on Wednesday, November 25th from 1pm – 7pm at the parking lot between the schools.

This test will tell you in 15 minutes if you are COVID positive. If you are, stay away from family and friends on Thanksgiving Day! We need to work to make sure that Thanksgiving in Acushnet isn’t a “super-spreader event.”

Due to the limited number of test kits available, and due to the expected high level of interest, this clinic is for Acushnet residents only.

This video provides details:

Massachusetts opioid overdose deaths on rise during pandemic

By Katie Lannan
State House News Service

An estimated 33 more people died from opioid overdoses in the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period last year, new Department of Public Health data show.

The 1,517 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths through September represent a 2 percent increase from the deaths logged from January through September of 2019, according to figures presented at a Public Health Council meeting Wednesday.

The 2020 numbers cover a time period before and during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a public health crisis that has rattled the economy, kept many people in their homes for weeks or longer, and disrupted the way all types of services and care are delivered.

If the uptick holds through the rest of 2020, it would mark a break from a recent run of declining overdose deaths year to year.

The DPH report shows a total of 2,020 confirmed and estimated fatal opioid overdoses in 2019, down from 2,033 in 2018, 2,051 in 2017, and a high of 2,102 in 2016.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said the latest data shows an increase between 2018 and 2019 in overdose death rates for Black women and for Black and Hispanic men.

She said the overall rate of overdose deaths has stabilized since a 2016 peak, despite an increase in the presence of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Fentanyl, which Bharel called “the really deadly ingredient that we’ve seen drive the opioid deaths in this current epidemic,” showed up in 93 percent of toxicology screens for overdose deaths in the first six months of this year. Heroin was present in 16 percent.

“The opioid epidemic continues to impact too many families and vulnerable populations, who have had to contend with the added fears and stress of the pandemic,” Bharel said. “Be assured that we have not let up on our efforts to address the opioid epidemic. Over these last months, the extraordinary public health challenges presented by the pandemic led us to enact overdose prevention efforts, including expanded telehealth, reducing barriers to treatment, expanding naloxone distribution and receiving federal approval to permit licensed treatment programs to provide take-home doses of medications for opioid use disorder.”

Deirdre Calvert, director of the DPH Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, said officials have been “aggressively maximizing” access to substance use disorder treatment during the pandemic.

She said the ability to take medication home is “very important, because it decreases people at clinics, it increases people being able to stay home, stay isolated, physically distanced.”

As of June, 52 percent of patients seeing opioid treatment providers were receiving take-home doses, compared to an average of 15.6 percent in December 2019.

More than 75,000 naloxone kits were distributed to treatment providers, syringe service programs, community health centers, emergency rooms and houses of correction from March to June, Calvert said.

She said the bureau has also launched its own COVID-19 response team to address challenges like an increased risk of overdoses because of the combination of social isolation, changes to drug supplies, avoidance of treatment because of fear of contracting the coronavirus, and the pandemic’s economic and mental health tolls.

“No matter how much naloxone we flood our system with, if people are using in isolation and nobody’s there to give them naloxone, it’s an issue,” Calvert said.

COVID-19 Update: FDA authorizes first COVID-19 test for self-testing at home

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test for self-testing at home and that provides rapid results. The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is a molecular (real-time loop mediated amplification reaction) single use test that is intended to detect the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

“The FDA continues to demonstrate its unprecedented speed in response to the pandemic. While COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been authorized for at-home collection, this is the first that can be fully self-administered and provide results at home. This new testing option is an important diagnostic advancement to address the pandemic and reduce the public burden of disease transmission,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. “Today’s action underscores the FDA’s ongoing commitment to expand access to COVID-19 testing.”

The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit test has been authorized for home use with self-collected nasal swab samples in individuals age 14 and older who are suspected of COVID-19 by their health care provider. It is also authorized for use in point-of-care (POC) settings (e.g., doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care centers and emergency rooms) for all ages but samples must be collected by a healthcare provider when the test is used at the POC to test individuals younger than 14 years old. The test is currently authorized for prescription use only.

The test works by swirling the self-collected sample swab in a vial that is then placed in the test unit. In 30 minutes or less, the results can be read directly from the test unit’s light-up display that shows whether a person is positive or negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Positive results indicate the presence of SARS-CoV-2. Individuals with positive results should self-isolate and seek additional care from their health care provider. Individuals who test negative and experience COVID-like symptoms should follow up with their health care provider as negative results do not preclude an individual from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Today’s authorization for a complete at-home test is a significant step toward FDA’s nationwide response to COVID-19. A test that can be fully administered entirely outside of a lab or healthcare setting has always been a major priority for the FDA to address the pandemic. Now, more Americans who may have COVID-19 will be able to take immediate action, based on their results, to protect themselves and those around them,” said Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “We look forward to proactively working with test developers to support the availability of more at-home test options.”

An important component to successful at-home testing is the ability to efficiently track and monitor results. As noted in this EUA, prescribing health care providers are required to report all test results they receive from individuals who use the test to their relevant public health authorities in accordance with local, state and federal requirements. Lucira Health, the test manufacturer, has also developed box labeling, quick reference instructions and health care provider instructions to assist with reporting.

Diagnostic testing remains one of the pillars of our nation’s response to COVID-19. The FDA continues its public health commitment to pursue new approaches that help make critical tests available to more Americans through EUA authority.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Need a Covid Test? Free Testing is Available in New Bedford & Fall River

We often get asked “where can I get a Covid test?” Fortunately in both New Bedford and Fall River there are several options. Get tested, stay safe, wear your masks, avoid crowds and wash your hands.

Directly from the state of MA website:

Stop the Spread
The Commonwealth is launching a strategic testing program in communities across Massachusetts that have continued to see a higher number of residents testing positive for COVID-19. You can find all the New Bedford testing sites here: For Fall River click here:

This program will support the testing of asymptomatic individuals in these communities to help stop the spread of COVID-19. If you are a resident of one of these communities, even if you have no COVID symptoms, please get tested to help stop the spread.

The Commonwealth urges residents of these communities to get tested for COVID-19:
Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Framingham, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lynn, Marlborough, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Salem, Saugus, Springfield, Winthrop, and Worcester.
This testing is free for all Massachusetts residents.
The Stop the Spread program is intended to provide low barrier, free, and easy to access testing to all Massachusetts residents.

Open to all Massachusetts residents
Testing is not restricted to residents of the cities where sites are located
You don’t need to have any symptom(s)
No cost to you
Out-of-state residents are not eligible for free testing under the Stop the Spread program

Governor Baker to re-establish field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced that the first field hospital will be stood up at the DCU Center in Worcester as the Commonwealth prepares additional capacity for COVID-19 patients. This site will be built by the National Guard and is the first field hospital to re-open in the state since June.

“The Commonwealth continues to see an alarming rise in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 and we are acting now to expand hospital capacity,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “All residents are urged to follow guidance to wear masks, stay home at night and stop gathering. We are preparing our hospital system to add more beds and stand up our first field hospital to care for COVID-19 patients if these trends continue. We will keep working with our health care system to monitor capacity and will be prepared to open more locations if needed.”

The plan to re-establish the field hospital in Worcester was activated this week. The site is expected to be available for patients in the first week of December if needed and additional locations will be added in other regions if necessary. No further changes or restrictions to regular hospital services in Massachusetts are being implemented at this time.

“Since Day One of our response to this crisis, we have worked to ensure that our hospitals and health care providers have the resources they need to meet the acute care health needs of our residents,” said EOHHS Secretary Marylou Sudders, the COVID-19 Command Center Director. “We are in a much better position to respond to what will be a difficult next few months, and the early re-opening of this field hospital is based on the data we see is the right action to take at this time.”

State officials have closely monitored several metrics and note that hospitalizations since Labor Day have increased from 178 to 661. While the hospital system manages the current demand for COVID and non-COVID care, the DCU site will provide approximately 240 additional beds to care for lower-acuity COVID-19 patients, helping preserve hospital system capacity for higher-risk patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or other serious health conditions.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) will coordinate the logistics of the DCU Center field hospital, in close collaboration with the Command Center, City of Worcester, and UMass Memorial Health Care, which will again lead all clinical, day-to-day, operations.

“The Commonwealth’s forward planning and ability to stand up this Alternate Care Site with our partners is a direct result of lessons learned and our experience during the first wave of the pandemic,” said MEMA Director Samantha Phillips. “We hope that we won’t need all of these overflow beds, but if we do, they’ll be ready.”

The DCU Center was the first of five field hospitals constructed by the Commonwealth during the response to the springtime surge of COVID-19 cases. From early April until late May, when it was de-mobilized, the DCU site served 161 patients. In total, the DCU and the Boston Hope field hospitals cared for more than 570 hospital patients during the first pandemic surge.

“This is the right thing to do and at the right time. The field hospital was an enormous asset for Central Massachusetts hospitals during the spring surge. I believe it can serve an even greater purpose today because we have learned so much more about the virus and caring for COVID-19 patients since then. Our team is ready to deploy and to assist the state’s hospitals,” said Eric W. Dickson, MD, President and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care.

Alternate Care Sites are designed as clinical spaces for lower acuity patients. These sites provide a relief valve for hospitals, allowing them to manage or reconfigure their facilities to care for more seriously ill patients. Each site is built to safely accommodate the beds, equipment, and medical supplies needed to appropriately care for COVID-19 patients.

The establishment of field hospitals has been a critical strategy in Massachusetts’ response to COVID-19. Additionally, the Command Center has added 30 specialty beds at two long term care facilities to increase capacity for individuals being discharged from acute care hospitals to nursing home level of care and are on ventilators or had tracheotomies. The Commonwealth’s continued preparedness has also included the stockpiling of millions of pieces of PPE, including gloves, masks, gowns, and other essential equipment as hundreds of additional ventilators. The state’s emergency stockpile will buttress strong preparedness that hospitals and other health care facilities have undertaken in the last several months, including building their own inventories to respond to the next stage of the pandemic.

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