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Gov. Baker addresses homelessness during COVID-19, announces new childcare actions

The Baker-Polito Administration today outlined its ongoing comprehensive strategy to address homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Administration also announced additional support for foster families and a new emergency order authorizing the creation of emergency childcare sites.

Comprehensive Steps To Address Homelessness: The Baker-Polito Administration recognizes that the challenges of COVID-19 are being felt especially hard among most vulnerable populations, including the 18,000 Massachusetts residents experiencing homelessness. Massachusetts was among the first states to create designated isolation sites for COVID-positive homeless individuals, the result of a partnership between the Commonwealth, homeless shelters and municipalities that has been underway for weeks.

The Administration’s strategy to support homeless individuals and families includes five key initiatives:

Establishing Isolation & Recovery Sites For COVID-19 Positive Homeless Individuals: The Administration has opened five state-operated isolation and recovery sites across the state to provide regional solutions for people experiencing homelessness that need a safe place to isolate and recover after testing positive for COVID-19. Statewide, these sites have a capacity of 550 beds and are staffed with 24/7 security and nursing staff, and are located in Everett, Lexington, Northampton, Pittsfield, and Taunton. These sites augment medical facilities at the Boston Hope field hospital and Newton Pavilion, which offer 732 respite beds for individuals who are homeless. As of April 15, over 160 people experiencing homelessness have been served by a state-operated Isolation and Recovery Site.

Deploying Supplies To Support Local Quarantine Solutions: With the Administration’s support, communities across the Commonwealth are standing up quarantine sites to provide a safe place for homeless individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 but are not symptomatic. Exposed individuals quarantine for 14 days to ensure they do not develop symptoms of COVID-19. The Administration created an expedited process for homeless shelters and municipalities to request equipment and supplies for quarantine solutions, such as tents, beds, and portable showers. Additional information on requesting support can be found here. To date, eleven communities have received supplies from MEMA to support their quarantine efforts: Brockton, Cambridge, Fitchburg, Framingham, Greenfield, Hyannis, Lowell, Southbridge, Taunton, Waltham, and Worcester.

Supporting Families In Emergency Assistance and Domestic Violence Shelters: The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) have instituted practices outlined by the CDC to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks within congregate shelters. Shelter coordinators have implemented health screening procedures during the placement process and have reinforced social distancing and infection control practices for shared spaces. DHCD has increased the state’s scattered site capacity to enable additional depopulation, quarantine, and isolation of families at various stages of COVID-19 exposure. Extended leaves from shelter have also been approved for families that have temporary alternative housing available with relatives. DHCD has developed protocols for shelters dealing with families that have tested positive for COVID-19, especially when some family members test negative. This group has also convened a case team to triage unique circumstances.

Expediting PPE Distribution To Shelters: The Administration has established an expedited process for homeless shelters to request PPE and other supplies necessary to maintain appropriate cleaning and sanitation practices. As of April 15th, Massachusetts has distributed masks, surgical masks, face shields, gloves, partitions, temperature strips, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies to 84 shelter sites.

Providing Technical Assistance To Organizations, Municipalities Seeking Funding Through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program: FEMA will reimburse 75% of municipality and non-profit organization costs associated with qualifying quarantine and isolation services for people experiencing homelessness. Massachusetts has established a dedicated portal to support municipalities and organizations through the grant application process, developing robust partnerships across the state to ensure all applicants are well-supported. As of April 15, 236 applicants have been processed and approved by MEMA.

Foster Care Relief: The Administration recognizes that as result of schools closing and closure of non-essential businesses, foster families are incurring increased costs. Foster parents are vital to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its mission to keep children safe, as they care for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children who have been abused and neglected.

To support foster parents providing departmental foster care, DCF will be making a $100 monthly payment for each child in placement on the 15th of April, May and June. Currently, on average, foster parents are reimbursed between $830 to $975 per child per month, depending on the age of the child in their care. This $100 additional payment represents a 10% – 12% increase over current reimbursements for foster parents. The relief will benefit the approximately 4,500 foster families who provide departmental foster care for 6,700 children. This includes unrestricted and kinship foster families.

Emergency Childcare: Yesterday, Governor Baker issued an emergency order authorizing the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to establish emergency sites for children and youth living in residential homes that have tested positive for COVID-19 and need to be cared for in quarantine or isolation.

The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to update the public on developments related to COVID-19. Residents can visit www.mass.gov/covid19 for the latest information, call 2-1-1 with questions, and subscribe to text-alerts by texting “COVIDMA” or “COVIDMAESP” (for Spanish alerts) to 888-777.




Massachusetts officials report 2,221 new COVID-19 cases, 159 new deaths

Massachusetts Coronavirus Update

On April 17, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 2,221 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 34,402. This is a decrease from Thursday’s 2,263 reported cases. 159 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported since yesterday, up from 137, bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 1,404.

As of 4 pm today, 148,744 people in Massachusetts have been tested for COVID-19 – 7,971 in the past 24 hours compared to the previous day’s total of 8,750.

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced the distribution of approximately 200,000 respirator masks for all local law enforcement officers and firefighters to ensure they have the protective equipment during the COVID-19 crisis. Full details here.

New Bedford Coronavirus Update

Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported six additional confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Bedford Thursday afternoon, bringing the total positive cases in the city to 180, up from 174 yesterday. The total COVID-19 related deaths in New Bedford is now at eight. Mayor Mitchell reported one new COVID-19 related death on Thursday. No further information on the death is available.

Due to Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 20, there will be no residential trash and recycling collection on Monday, April 20 in New Bedford. Full details here.

Fall River Coronavirus Update

According to Mayor Coogan, the City of Fall River is down 4 positive cases from yesterday making the total identified number of cases of COVID-19 in Fall River 178. 82 individuals have recovered. Full details here.

The Diocese of Fall River announced today that the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis requires it to close two Catholic schools at the end of this school year. Full details here.




New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center announces outcome of Covid-19 restrictions

In response to the disruption caused by COVID-19 outbreak, The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, and their resident companies The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and The New Bedford Festival Theater, have extended the postponement of all programming through August 2.

As a result of the closure, the Zeiterion furloughed 70% of staff. Beginning with the first performance cancellation in mid-March, 30 show-related employees were immediately without work. Three weeks later, a combination of 15 full-time and part-time positions were furloughed.

Michael Tavares, President of the Zeiterion Board of Trustees stated, “We made the difficult decision to furlough most of our staff temporarily, in order to protect the financial stability of our organization. The Board is committed to preserving The Z as the heart of our community well into the future and is taking the necessary short-term measures to ensure the best outcome.”

The closure also affects over 700 performing artists. This includes all artists, musicians and dancers employed by the The Zeiterion, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and the New Bedford Festival Theatre.

On March 12, The Zeiterion was among the first cultural organizations in New Bedford to cancel a major event in response to the virus. Following the initial cancellation, performances were postponed through April 30. That postponement date has now been extended through early August and affects over 50 performances, 10 school student shows, and the annual two-day New Bedford Folk Festival.

In total, the three non-profits estimate over 31,000 people would have attended performances at the Zeiterion during the closure between mid-March and early August, and that translates into a $2.3 million dollar economic loss for the region. Annually, The Zeiterion, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and New Bedford Festival Theatre attract 100,000 visitors to downtown New Bedford which represents a $7.6 million dollar impact on the regional economy.

Zeiterion’s Executive Director Rosemary Gill added, “We are acutely aware of our influence on the local economy and we are all doing everything we can to ensure the strongest possible reopening.”

The COVID-19 closure has a deep financial impact on the all three organizations. Like many non-profits presenting entertainment, a majority of their annual budgets are derived from earned revenue through ticket sales. The Zeiterion alone will endure a $1.4 million dollar loss of income.

“Many supporters are asking how they help during this time. Charitable donations or memberships would immediately benefit any of the three non-profits that share the Zeiterion’s stage” says Rosemary Gill, the Zeiterion’s Executive Director. She added, “I’m so grateful to The Z’s board for their courage to make difficult decisions to protect our future, to our patrons for their patience and understanding, and to our donors and funders for their generosity.”

The Zeiterion, NBSO and NBFT are currently planning for days when safety allows people to gather again. New Bedford Festival Theatre has postponed its 2020 production of Annie and is working to secure the rights in order to bring Annie back in the summer of 2021. Many of the Zeiterion and some of the New Bedford Symphony shows have been rescheduled, and new performances will soon be announced. During the closure, The Z is offering pay-what-you-choose virtual classes like salsa dance and ukulele lessons, and both the NBSO and The Z are presenting virtual concerts on their social media channels.

For continued updates, please visit the web sites for all three organizations: www.zeiterion.org, www.nbsymphony.org, and www.nbfestivaltheatre.org.




Gov. Baker announces distribution of PPE to all emergency responders in Massachusetts

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced the distribution of approximately 200,000 respirator masks for all local law enforcement officers and firefighters to ensure they have the protective equipment during the COVID-19 crisis. These FDA-approved respirator masks will be distributed to all local law enforcement officers, including sheriffs and college and university police, and firefighters starting today through a coordinated effort by the COVID-19 Response Command Center and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers are continuing to receive these types of masks and other PPE.

To facilitate quick distribution of these masks, MEMA is employing a regional point of distribution (POD) model where communities can pick up their supply of masks at their designated MEMA POD. These POD sites are open today and have already distributed tens of thousands of masks to first responders in the first few hours.

This new distribution will ensure that local law enforcement and firefighters will have five respirator masks each, equivalent to a one month’s supply. Including conservation methods currently being used by some organizations, this will provide each individual a mask per week and a spare, allowing the mask to dry overnight and reuse for up to one week.

The Baker-Polito Administration and its COVID-19 Response Command Center continue to prioritize the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment for front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of yesterday, the Commonwealth has delivered over four million pieces of PPE statewide. This includes over 2.3 million gloves, over 370,000 masks from the “AirKraft” shipment, almost 190,000 gowns and 380 ventilators.

Daily distribution of PPE data can be found here.

The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to update the public on developments related to COVID-19. Residents can visit www.mass.gov/covid19 for the latest information, call 2-1-1 with questions, and subscribe to text-alerts by texting “COVIDMA” or “COVIDMAESP” (for Spanish alerts) to 888-777.




Six more COVID-19 cases reported in New Bedford, total up to 180

Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported six additional confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Bedford Friday afternoon, bringing the total positive cases in the city to 180, up from 174 yesterday. The total COVID-19 related deaths in New Bedford is now at eight. Mayor Mitchell reported one new COVID-19 related death on Thursday. No further information on the death is available.

Due to Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 20, there will be no residential trash and recycling collection on Monday, April 20 in New Bedford. Full details here.

Fall River officials reported an additional 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. According to Mayor Coogan, there are now 182 confirmed cases in Fall River with two more fatalities. Full details here.

On April 16, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 2,263 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 32,181. This is an increase from Wednesday’s 1,755 reported cases.137 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported since yesterday, down from 151, bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 1,245. Full details here.




Massachusetts State Police transport personal protective equipment from New Bedford to Martha’s Vineyard

“On Thursday the Massachusetts State Police Marine Unit transported a large volume of personal protective equipment to Martha’s Vineyard for distribution among first responders and public safety personnel across the island.

Troopers from the Marine Unit picked up the equipment from the state stockpile and trucked it to the New Bedford State Pier. From there, the equipment was loaded aboard an MSP vessel and transported to Menemsha for off-loading.


Marine Unit Trooper Steve Kamb loads the PPE supplies into the truck this morning, and then Marine Unit Trooper Randy Carlson met with Sgt. James Cruz and Trooper David Parent of State Police-Oak Bluffs to complete the mission. Massachusetts State Police photo.


Seen here, MSP Colonel Chris Mason, Superintendent of Department, and Lieutenant Colonel Scott Warmington, Deputy Superintendent, visited Marine 37 before it launched with the supplies. Trooper Brendan Roper of the Marine Unit is between them. Massachusetts State Police photo.

The MSP was happy to be of assistance on the water as part of the state’s ongoing comprehensive response to the public health emergency.”




New Bedford Symphony Orchestra offers FREE live-streams for those stuck at home

Live Stream Lineup:

• April 17, 7pm: Violin Duos from The Shire
• April 25, 7pm: Works for Solo Viola
• April 26, 4pm: Spirit through Isolation: violin, cello & piano
• May 1, 7pm: The Lightness of Spring: violin, viola & cello
• May 8, 7pm: When Oboe Met Viola
• May 10, 4pm: Mother’s Day Matinee: violin, cello, guitar, vibraphone
• May 17, 4pm: South Coast Chamber Music Series: piano, violin, viola, & cello

Stay tuned for more live-stream concerts and other online delights!

The NBSO would like to share with you this message from NBSO President and CEO Dave Prentiss:




New Bedford Fire Department conducting decontamination operation as strategy to stem the spread of COVID-19

“Early this morning members of the New Bedford Fire Department who are hazardous materials technicians conducted a decontamination operation with the goal of disinfecting every City-owned vehicle. They will repeat the exercises tomorrow morning as well.

The process is completed in about 15 minutes for each vehicle and is just one component of the Department and City’s strategy to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Members are operating Victory electrostatic guns using Hyperfect 256 which is used in to disinfect surgical suites between surgeries.

Additional backpacks and other decontamination equipment arrived this week allowing the Department to expand the operation. Prior to today, all public safety facilities and vehicles including police cruisers, fire apparatus, and ambulances were already being decontaminated on a rotating basis.

We would also like to thank the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and EMA Director Brian Nobrega for providing support, equipment, and personnel to support this operation.”

New Bedford Fire Department photos.




Massachusetts COVID-19 deaths 25% higher than California’s

Why does Massachusetts have 25% more COVID-19 related deaths than California, a state with nearly 6 times the population? California officials credit early social distancing with making a major difference. As of Wednesday, Massachusetts reached 1,108 COVID-19 related deaths compared to California’s 889. The statistics are similar to total cases, California has 27,250 confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to 32,181 in Massachusetts. California has 40 million people compared to 6.9 million in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Coronavirus Update

On April 16, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 2,263 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 32,181. This is a increase from Wednesday’s 1,755 reported cases.137 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported since yesterday, down from 151, bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 1,245.

As of 4 pm today, 140,773 people in Massachusetts have been tested for COVID-19 – 8,750 in the past 24 hours compared to the previous day’s total of 5,472.

New Bedford Coronavirus Update

Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported one more COVID-19 related death and 11 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Bedford Thursday afternoon, bringing the total positive cases in the city to 174, up from 163 yesterday. The total COVID-19 related deaths in New Bedford is now at eight. Mayor Mitchell reported four new COVID-19 related death on Tuesday.

Fall River Coronavirus Update

Fall River reported an additional 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19. According to Mayor Coogan, there are now 182 confirmed cases in Fall River with two more fatalities. Full details here.

The Diocese of Fall River announced today that the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis requires it to close two Catholic schools at the end of this school year. Full details here.




Bristol County Sheriff Hodgson updates Prisoner Release Alert System

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the population in jails and prisons across the state must be reduced to protect prisoners from COVID-19. As a result, about 30 individuals in Bristol County correctional facilities had their bails reduced or extinguished and are now back out in the community instead of behind bars. Among the charges faced by these individuals are fentanyl trafficking, assault to rape, possession, and distribution of drugs, assault, larceny, armed and masked robbery and indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.

“I believe the people of Bristol County have a right to know the backgrounds of these people who are no longer behind bars because of this court ruling,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson wrote in his introduction to the Prisoner Release Alert System. “All of these crimes were committed in Bristol County.”

The BCSO will continue to update the Prisoner Release Alert System if more county inmates or federal ICE detainees are released due to court actions surrounding COVID-19. The graphic can be found on the BCSO website, www.bcso-ma.us.

Currently, no inmate or detainee in a Bristol County correctional facility has tested positive for COVID-19 as all six tests of symptomatic individuals have come back negative. Of the four staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19, two have recovered and returned to work, and the other two are expected back soon.

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