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Two Bristol County Sheriff staffers have tested positive for COVID-19

A correctional officer and a K9 officer from the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office have tested positive for COVID-19.

“Both are feeling well,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said. “They have some minor symptoms but both said, overall, that they’re feeling okay. That’s very encouraging.”

The correctional officer’s last shift was March 31. He didn’t feel well in the days following, received a COVID-19 test, and informed the BCSO of the positive result this week. He will be out of work until tests are negative and he is cleared by a doctor.

He works in a specialized housing unit inside the men’s facility. His unit was empty on his last day and had one inmate in the days prior. The inmate has shown no symptoms of Coronavirus.

The K9 officer didn’t feel well in the days after his last shift on March 28, received a test and notified the BCSO of the positive result this week. He has no inmate contact and extremely limited contact with staff and the community as his primary responsibility on third shift is securing the outside perimeter of the Dartmouth correctional complex.

His K9 partner is showing no symptoms. Although the CDC has not received any reports of pets/companion animals becoming sick in the United States, the K9 officer is taking extra precautions and following CDC guidelines by limiting contact with his four-legged partner.

These security staffers are the second and third staff members of the BCSO to have tested positive for COVID-19. A nurse from Correctional Psychiatric Services, the BCSO’s contracted medical vendor, previously tested positive for the virus, has recovered, and is cleared to return to work this week.

Over the past month, the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office has instituted many protocols to protect inmates, detainees and staff from the Coronavirus outbreak. Some of those measures include:

• All employees were given masks that must be worn inside the secure perimeter of our facilities. Inmates and detainees will also be given masks; we anticipate our orders to be fulfilled by the end of the week.
• All areas of the facility are being cleaned\disinfected every day on every shift.
• All staff members are being screened before entering the buildings; new arriving inmates are being screened before being accepted into custody.
• In-person visitation has been suspended to limit the number of people coming in and out.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our staff. Everyone on our team has been extremely self-disciplined about the protocols and procedures in place to prevent the spread of this disease. Their dedication and commitment to our professional standards and operational disciplines is testament to the 100% score they earned on our last two national accreditations audits,” Sheriff Hodgson said. “The inmates, as well, have been very focused on hygiene and doing their part to flatten the curve. We’re all in this together.”




New Bedford reports first deaths related to COVID-19, positive test count now at 81

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported Wednesday morning that New Bedford had its first two deaths related to COVID-19 and now has 81 positive cases of COVID-19, up from the 71 cases they reported on Tuesday and up from 65 on Monday. The New Bedford residents that passed away were in their 80s and 90s.

Mayor Mitchell broke the news this morning on Twitter:

“I am saddened to announce the Covid-related deaths of two #Newbedford residents. Our city’s prayers are with their families.”

On April 7, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 1,365 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 15,202. This is a slight increase over Monday’s 1,337 reported cases. 96 new deaths were reported in the past three days bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 356. Full details here.

As of 4 pm Tuesday, 81,344 people in Massachusetts have been tested for COVID-19 – 4,915 in the past 24 hours.

Brockton has seven times the amount of positive COVID-19 cases as comparably sized cities in Massachusetts like New Bedford and Fall River and 147 more cases than Worcester, which has almost 100,000 more people. Full details here.

The City of New Bedford is slated to receive $1,624,151 in funding through the CDB20-COVID Recovery Grant Fund and $805,424 in funding though the ESG20-COVID Recovery Grant, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Full details here.




Acushnet Fire & EMS receives protective equipment including N95 masks

“On Wednesday, April 8, 2020:

A very big THANK YOU to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) for delivering two pallets of Personal Protective Equipment to our department.

Also, how can we ever thank the Patriots and Governor Baker for making the arrangements for us, in Acushnet, to get N95 masks from China!

Thank you Mr. Kraft, it almost makes the pain of losing TB12 go away (not really).”




Town of Dartmouth confirms 31 cases of Covid-19

The town of Dartmouth reversed its recently stated policy of not sharing updates on the specifics on COVID-19 cases. Only a few short weeks ago some Massachusetts towns had instituted the policy, but residents quickly condemned it and preferred being informed.

As of April 7th, there are 31 confirmed cases of the virus according to Director of Public Health Chris Michaud and those cases are not centered in a so-called “hot spot,” but spread evenly throughout the town. Considering the nature of the virus whereby an individual may be infected yet show no symptoms, the number is likely to be higher – a number that will be made more accurate as testing becomes more prevalent.

Those who have tested positive are placed in self-quarantine limiting their movement within that household to one room if they live with others, or to have food and supplies delivered if they live alone. In addition, anyone who has had close-contact with an infected person is asked to self-quarantine for 2 weeks.




Massachusetts adds 1,365 new COVID-19 cases since Monday, death count at 356

On April 7, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 1,365 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 15,202. This is a slight increase over Monday’s 1,337 reported cases. 96 new deaths were reported in the past three days bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 356.

As of 4 pm today, 81,344 people in Massachusetts have been tested for COVID-19 – 4,915 in the past 24 hours.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported Tuesday morning that New Bedford has a total of 71 positive cases of COVID-19, up from the 65 cases they reported on Saturday and up from 54 on Friday. The City did not report data on Sunday. Full details here.

At 4:30 pm today, Fall River reported 70 cases of COVID-19, up from 66 on Monday. Full details here.

Brockton has seven times the amount of positive COVID-19 cases as comparably sized cities in Massachusetts like New Bedford and Fall River and 147 more cases than Worcester, which has almost 100,000 more people. Full details here.

The Boston Police Department and FBI are warning people of fraudulent emails/phone calls from scammers looking to hijack COVID-19 stimulus checks. Full details here.

As of April 6, the total amount of cases in The United States is 378,289 with 11,830 total deaths.




Massachusetts doctors given official guidance on COVID-19 critical care prioritization

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service

In preparation for the potential that hospitals may run out of life-saving supplies to treat every COVID-19 patient that shows up at their door, Massachusetts public health officials released guidance Tuesday to help providers make the grim choice about which patients to prioritize, advising the doctors treat the young and most likely to survive first.

The recommendations were published by an advisory committee of medical experts and ethicists from Massachusetts convened by Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, who herself is suffering with COVID-19.

“This guidance is intended to provide a unified, transparent framework that supports consistent hospital and provider decision-making aimed at maximizing the number of life years saved,” the report states.

While it’s unknown whether hospitals will ever need to implement such a triage system, Gov. Charlie Baker has made no secret about the difficulties he has encountered in securing critical life saving supplies, including ventilators.

The state has requested 1,700 ventilators from the national stockpile, but to date has only received about 100 as the federal government has prioritized sending its own limited resources to other states, and places where cases are surging now.

The Department of Public Health and other agencies are also working to set up field hospitals in Worcester and South Boston to deal with patient overflow, free up nursing homes for the treatment of coronavirus patients and boost the state’s intensive care bed inventory by at least 500.

Still, the prospects of hospitals at some point needing to triage critical care has been an ongoing concern, particularly for people considered to be at a high-risk.

“This virus it’s clearly deadly. It’s pervasive. It’s fast moving, So we naturally we’d worried about our constituents because a higher percentage of people with disabilities have medical comorbitities,” Leo Sarkissian, executive director of the Arc Of Massachusetts, told the News Service this week.

Sarkissian represents patients and families living with intellectual and development disabilities in group homes or at home with caregivers.

“We’re worried about the criteria for treatment and aggressive treatment, and especially worried about people who can’t communicate well because of their disability and need exceptions for people being with them in the hospital,” Sarkissian said.

The guidance, while voluntary, is intended to give hospitals a road map in the event the number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts surge in the coming weeks to the point that health care facilities are overwhelmed and encounter shortages of equipment, staff or beds to accommodate the need.

Baker has said he expects the surge to hit Massachusetts between April 10 and April 20.

“The overwhelming need for care created by a disaster would necessitate a shift of focus from the absolute care of each individual to promoting the conscientious stewardship of limited resources intended to result in the best possible health outcomes for the population as a whole,” the advisory panel concluded.

If it becomes a crisis, the state is recommending that providers focus on maximizing the number of life years saved, not simply trying to save the most lives. Race, gender, ethnicity, disability or incarceration status are among the qualifiers that should have no bearing on the determination.

“Patients who are more likely to survive with intensive care are prioritized over patients who are less likely to survive with intensive care. Patients who do not have serious comorbid illness are given priority over those who have illnesses that limit their life expectancy,” the guidance recommends.

Under such a system, patients would be given a score of one to four points based on their prognosis for hospital survival, with an additional two to four points added for major to severe underlying health conditions in addition to COVID-19 that would limit life expectancy.

Priority for equipment like ventilators and other life-saving equipment would be given to patients with lower scores on the eight-point scale. Pregnant women could have up to two points deducted from their scores and “heightened priority” should be given to health care workers needed to care for other coronavirus-infected patients, the guidance recommends.

Treatment of pediatric patients should be approached differently, the experts recommended, with consideration for short-term survival given consideration.

The doctors and ethicists further recommended that each hospital set up a triage team to perform the assessments, and not leave the decision to a patient’s treating physician.




Massachusetts Urged to Unlock Pool of Foreign Care Workers

By Katie Lannan
State House News Service

Lawmakers are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to let health care professionals trained in other countries join the state’s COVID-19 fight, and a recent Board of Registration in Medicine move will allow some international medical graduates who’ve also trained in the U.S. to receive temporary licenses here.

As Massachusetts prepares for a surge in coronavirus cases and the corresponding demand for medical care and supplies, the state has taken a series of steps aimed at augmenting the available health care workforce.

Health care providers licensed in other states can receive a Massachusetts license that will be valid during the state of emergency, and physicians who have retired within the past year can have their licenses reactivated. Medical schools have graduated this year’s classes early, field hospitals are being set up in Boston and in Worcester, and a new online portal allows health care professionals to volunteer to assist with the pandemic response.

On Friday, 45 state lawmakers wrote to Baker, asking him to expand on these efforts by granting temporary licenses to health care personnel who are licensed in good standing in other countries.

“We believe that our trained, skilled, and licensed immigrant neighbors — many of whom may want to contribute to the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response — have always been and continue to be an untapped resource,” reads the letter, led by Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. Mindy Domb. “For example, there are thousands of immigrant doctors who, despite having passed the U.S. exams, were not matched with a residency program in the United States and as such are unable to fulfill state licensing requirements.”

Comerford is the Senate chair of the Public Health Committee, and the letter is also signed by Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee chairs Sen. Paul Feeney and Rep. Tackey Chan, and the heads of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, Senate chair Sen. Patricia Jehlen and House vice-chair Rep. Stephan Hay. Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, the chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, is also among the signatories.

The letter also seeks assurance that health care providers from Puerto Rico are considered eligible for licensing here, like those from other states.

State lawmakers have contemplated the issue of licensure for foreign-trained medical professionals before.

This year’s budget, which Baker signed on July 31, 2019, created a 23-member commission of government and health care officials, giving them until July 2021 to study potential barriers in the licensure process and report on “strategies to integrate foreign-trained medical professionals into rural and underserved areas in need of medical services.”

According to the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, which has three seats on the panel, the commission had been planning — before the coronavirus upended much of daily life — to start meeting early this year after background checks on its members were completed.

When the commission was created, MIRA said that more than 20 percent of the over 8,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, mental health providers and other medical professionals in Massachusetts who were educated abroad are unemployed or underemployed because of difficulties getting licensed in the U.S.

On Friday, MIRA launched a survey of such foreign-trained professionals, gauging their interest in assisting with the COVID-19 response.

Preliminary results shared Monday with the News Service showed that 47 percent of the initial 34 respondents would be interested in assisting in the medical response, even as an unpaid volunteer, and about 18 percent were interested in helping out if they would get paid for the work. Another 20 percent said it would depend on what they would be asked to do. Thirty-three respondents said they were not licensed in the U.S. but had an active license in another country, and one person was licensed in another state.

Solomon Kaffa, who trained as a doctor in Ethiopia and emigrated to the U.S. in 2016, said he’s been feeling a sense of hopelessness “sitting on the sidelines” while reading headlines about doctor and nurse shortages. He replied to the MIRA survey, the state’s online volunteer portal and other surveys, looking for opportunities to help.

“I’ve been trying to get back in there and volunteer,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve been seeing how health care professionals have been swamped by this pandemic.”

Kaffa said it’s “very difficult” to find medical jobs in the U.S., without going through a traditional American medical school program. He said he has experience working in settings with limited resources, which could translate to the current environment where personal protective equipment is scarce, along with clinical skills he could put to use.

“I know I can definitely help out in this response, in any capacity,” he said.

On March 17, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine put in place an Emergency Temporary License for physicians who have completed their postgraduate training, including both graduates from the U.S. and international medical graduates.

George Zachos, the board’s executive director, said in a statement that international medical graduates must have completed three years of postgraduate training that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, American Osteopathic Association-approved or accredited in Canada, in order to qualify for the emergency license.

Other states have taken different approaches.

In New York, a March 23 executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo allows graduates of foreign medical schools who are not licensed in the state if they have completed at least one year of graduate medical education in the U.S.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on April 1, authorizing his state’s Division of Consumer Affairs to issue temporary medical licenses to doctors who are licensed and in good standing in other countries, along with other workforce measures.

“By signing this executive order, we are removing bureaucratic roadblocks to quickly bring more health care professionals into our efforts and provide additional flexibility and protections for our front line responders to aid in New Jersey’s response to COVID-19,” Murphy said in a statement.

The lawmakers who wrote to Baker cited Murphy’s order and recommended “that Massachusetts authorize similar licensing, but include nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals as well.”




Westport’s Brownie Girl Scout Troop 540 offers “Hearts For Heroes” project to benefit health care workers and first-responders

Westport’s Brownie Girl Scout Troop 540 is hosting an online service project to benefit local heroes during this time of uncertainty.

As scouts we wanted to do our part to help our community – the community can help in our efforts by donating boxes of girl scout cookies to first responders as part of our project.

Hearts for Heroes is a great way for our community to let health care workers and first responders know we are thinking of them during this very difficult time.

More information and details on how to donate can be found online at: https://rebeccakrzyszton.wixsite.com/brownietroop540

Thank you in advance for sharing our service project and helping us make the days ahead a little brighter for those helping to keep us safe!

Sincerely,
Brownie Girl Scout Troop 540, Westport MA

For additional information, please e-mail rebeccakrzyszton@gmail.com




New Bedford at 71 positive cases for COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from 65 on Monday

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported Tuesday morning that New Bedford has a total of 71 positive cases of COVID-19, up from the 65 cases they reported on Saturday and up from 54 on Friday. The City did not report data on Sunday.

The City of New Bedford is slated to receive $1,624,151 in funding through the CDB20-COVID Recovery Grant Fund and $805,424 in funding though the ESG20-COVID Recovery Grant, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Full details here.

On April 6, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 1,337 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 13,837. This is a significant increase over Sunday’s 764 reported cases and very close to Saturday’s 1,334 new cases. There appears to be a trend of low testing on Sundays. 29 new deaths were reported bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 260. Full details here.

According to Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan, Fall River now has 66 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday.

Bristol County is now up to 722 confirmed cases as of 4 pm on Monday, up from 659 on Saturday.

Brockton has seven times the amount of positive COVID-19 cases as comparably sized cities in Massachusetts like New Bedford and Fall River and 147 more cases than Worcester, which has almost 100,000 more people. Full details here.




Boston Police and FBI warn residents of COVID-19 scammers looking to hijack stimulus checks using a variety of methods

The Boston Police Department and FBI Warn Residents of Fraudulent Emails/Phone Calls from Scammers Looking to Hijack COVID-19 Stimulus Checks:

With millions of people out of work and hoping to receive COVID-19 stimulus checks, the Boston Police Department and FBI are warning community members to be leery and wary of scammers seeking personal information either through email or phone calls as a precondition for any federal aid. To be clear, the US government is not sending emails or making phone calls asking for any individual’s personal information in exchange for federal aid.

Sadly, while the large majority of law-abiding citizens are looking for ways to help, scammers are looking for ways to use the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them. Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.

In addition to the above, the FBI advises you to be on the lookout for the following:

Fake CDC Emails:
Watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other organizations claiming to offer information on the virus. Do not click links or open attachments you do not recognize. Fraudsters can use links in emails to deliver malware to your computer to steal personal information or to lock your computer and demand payment. Be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide. Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received.

Phishing Emails:
Look out for phishing emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money. Phishing emails may also claim to be related to:

• Charitable contributions
• General financial relief
• Airline carrier refunds
• Fake cures and vaccines
• Fake testing kits

Counterfeit Treatments or Equipment:

Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves.

More info on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh.

If you are looking for accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, the CDC has posted extensive guidance and information that is updated frequently. The best sources for authoritative information on COVID-19 are www.cdc.gov and www.coronavirus.gov. You may also consult your primary care physician for guidance.

The FBI is reminding you to always use good cyber hygiene and security measures. By remembering the following tips, you can protect yourself and help stop criminal activity:

• Do not open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don’t recognize.
• Do not provide your username, password, date of birth, social security number, financial data, or other personal information in response to an email or robocall.
• Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
• Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link. For example, an address that should end in a ‘.gov’ but ends in ‘.com’ instead.

In addition to filing a report with the Boston Police Department, victims are also encouraged to report suspicious activity through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Lastly, if someone knocks on your door or rings your bell claiming a need to enter your home or see personal information, do not allow them entry and call 9-1-1 immediately.

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