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Gov. Baker: Model predicts up to 172,000 sick, 2,580 dead from COVID-19 in Massachusetts

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center today outlined projections related to the anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth. The projections are the result of the Command Center’s work with medical experts to complete modeling of the outbreak in Massachusetts. The Administration also detailed its efforts to respond to this surge, including a significant increase in hospital capacity, staffing, and equipment.

COVID-19 Surge Planning:

Modeling and Projections:
The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center has been working with its Advisory Board of medical experts and epidemiologists from Harvard University, University of Guelph and Northeastern to refine models related to the expected surge of COVID-19 cases. These efforts include modeling the surge’s timing, number of cases, necessary bed capacity, and work to find facilities that will meet overfill capacity. The model’s projections are based on the experience of Wuhan, China, but Massachusetts’ trajectory could differ due to lower population density, lower smoking rates, and earlier social distancing measures. The Command Center has also been comparing to experience in other states and around the world.

The model’s latest projections estimate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts could range from 47,000 to 172,000 (or 0.7% to 2.5% of the total population of Massachusetts). The models show hospitalizations would potentially peak between April 10-20. The current fatality rate in Massachusetts is lower than other areas – it is approximately 1.5% of those infected. The Command Center is monitoring this statistic closely.

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with hospitals to provide them with flexibility to expand ICU capacity. The Commonwealth is asking academic medical centers and teaching hospitals to work to significantly expand their ICU capacity. But after hospitals execute on their surge plans, the model estimates there could be a remaining gap in ICU capacity of more than 500 beds.

Response Efforts:
In response, the Administration is aiming to find or build an additional 750 – 1000 beds in field medical hospitals and other alternate care sites to reduce strain on hospitals as much as possible. Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito visited the first of these Field Medical Stations at the DCU Center yesterday.

The Administration has identified additional possible sites for Field Medical Stations including the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Joint Base Cape Cod, Springfield’s Mass Mutual Building and other smaller locations. The Administration has secured a contractor who can build out sites once a healthcare partner has been finalized.

The Command Center is also securing 1000 beds in capacity for step-down care options in nursing facilities for stabilized COVID-19 positive patients who can be transferred out of the hospital to make room for those with higher medical need.




Gov. Baker adds additional steps to encourage social distancing at State parks and beaches

BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker today issued an emergency order requiring all coastal beach reservation parking areas managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to close effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020 to reduce large concentrations of people at beaches during the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020, DCR will open select seasonal state parks early and expand access at other parks to provide additional open space opportunities for residents to enjoy and alternatives to popular state parks throughout the Commonwealth.

Coastal parkways that provide access to state beaches will also be closed to both parking and dropping off passengers. State beaches will remain open and available to pedestrians for transitory use only (walking, jogging, biking, solitary fishing, etc.). A link to find specific parking and traffic restrictions can be found here.

State parks and associated parking areas remain open at this time; however, the public is asked to visit state parks and other open space properties that are located near their homes to ensure social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, DCR’s agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, athletic fields, athletic courts, golf courses, and bathroom facilities will remain closed until Monday, May 4, 2020.

DCR will also be limiting the amount of parking spaces available at certain high-visitation state parks. DCR continues to stress that if a park is crowded, visitors should consider visiting a different location or returning at a later date or time. The state parks system has over 450,000 acres of property, and every region of the state contains multiple parks to explore that may be less busy than others in the area. DCR advises visitors of state parks to:

· Stay within solitary or small groups, and avoid gatherings of ten or more people;
· Practice social distancing of at least six feet between individuals;
· Participate in only non-contact recreational activities;
· Practice healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds; and,
· Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population.

To centralize COVID-19 updates that impact the state parks system, DCR recently developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage. Prior to visiting a state parks property, members of the public should review the contents of the webpage. Furthermore, for information about the Baker-Polito Administration’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, please visit the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) website.




Bristol County Sheriff health care professional tests positive for COVID-19

The following is a press release from the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office:

“A health care professional working at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office has tested positive for COVID-19.

The nurse, an employee of the BCSO’s contracted medical vendor Correctional Psychiatric Services, developed a low-grade fever around 6 a.m. on March 25 near the end of an overnight shift. Upon confirming her fever, she donned a ppe mask, left the facility, contacted her physician and has not been back since.

Late Wednesday, April 1, she received a positive test for COVID-19. She has been symptom-free since March 25 and will remain away from the BCSO for the time being.
The nurse worked in the Women’s Center and ICE facility before going home with a fever on March 25.

Information provided by the CDC and DPH indicate that symptoms of COVID-19 exposure are most likely to occur during the fifth through eighth days of the 14-day incubation period, which in this case was between March 29 and April 1.

“It’s encouraging that she’s had no symptoms for a week and is feeling well,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said. “It’s also encouraging that no other BCSO or CPS staff members, nor any inmates or detainees, have reported symptoms.

“We wish her a safe, speedy recovery.”

On Thursday, medical professionals are meeting with detainees in the ICE facility and inmates in the Women’s Center to answer any questions about the nurse’s positive test.
Over the past month, the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office has instituted many protocols to protect inmates, detainees and staff from the Coronavirus outbreak, which include:

· All areas of the facility are being cleaned\disinfected on every shift every day
· Staff members are being screened before entering the buildings; new arriving inmates are being screened before being accepted into custody
· In-person visitation and has been suspended to limit the number of people coming in and out.

Currently, there are no inmates, detainees or other staff members with Coronavirus or showing symptoms of Coronavirus. Any headlines or press releases from political activist organization claiming infections or outbreaks are completely false and reckless.”




New Bedford at 42 positive cases for COVID-19 on Thursday

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported this morning that New Bedford has a total of 42 positive cases of COVID-19, up from the 33 cases they reported on Wednesday. Yesterday, he reported Fairhaven with 12 positive cases and Dartmouth as unknown at this time.

Yesterday, Mayor Jon Mitchell and the Board of Health have acted to protect residents including seniors in New Bedford, announcing stringent measures on wellness checks, quarantining, and isolation requirements for senior living facilities and nursing homes, as well as lodging houses, in New Bedford. Full details here.

According to the Massachusetts Public Health Department, the state added 1,118 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 7,738 as of 4 pm on Wednesday. For the second straight day, 33 people died from the virus bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 122. Break out by county can be seen here.

According to Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan on Wednesday, Fall River now has 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19..

Bristol County is now up to 366 confirmed cases as of 4 pm on Wednesday.

Yesterday at 4pm, Massachusetts Public health officials report 33 new deaths and 868 more positive cases since Monday from COVID-19.

Governor Baker has stated on Monday that a surge in coronavirus cases could start to hit Massachusetts between April 7 and April 17, stressing the importance of taking steps to prepare additional health care capacity.




Massachusetts COVID-19 positive cases jump by 1,118 with 33 more deaths since Tuesday

According to the Massachusetts Public Health Department, the state added 1,118 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 7,738. For the second straight day, 33 people died from the virus bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 122.

As of 4 pm today, 51,738 people in Massachusetts have been tested for COVID-19 – 4,803 in the past 24 hours. In total, 8,394 people in Massachusetts have been quarantined – 5,176 are still in quarantine and 3,218 have been released from quarantine.

At an 11 am press conference, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell reported that New Bedford has a total of 33 positive cases of COVID-19, up from 31 cases on Tuesday. He also reported Fairhaven with 12 positive cases and Dartmouth as unknown at this time.

According to Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan on Tuesday, Fall River now has 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19.. Bristol County is now up to 366 confirmed cases as of 4 pm on today.

According to the CDC, as of April 1st, the total amount of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. stands at 186,101 with 3,603 dead.




Mitchell: Not many New Bedford scallopers going out because of drop in demand

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service

On the opening day of scallop season in the country’s largest fishing port, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell should have been celebrating the departure of boats from his city’s piers.

Instead, the mayor of the mid-sized city on the South Coast was laying out his administration’s latest efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus in New Bedford’s nursing homes, and urging residents to practice vigilant social distancing.

The city, he said, had even resorted to taking the rims off the basketball hoops at many of the New Bedford’s most popular courts.

“We do know this. The virus is here and it is spreading,” Mitchell said from a podium in front of the steps outside City Hall.

A city with about 95,000 residents, New Bedford has 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19, though the mayor said it’s difficult to know exactly how quickly the virus is spreading in his city. What city officials do know, however, is that elderly populations are at particularly high risk from the virus, and New Bedford’s population “skews elderly.”

“This is a real soft spot,” he said.

Mitchell urged seniors who live at home to stay there and take advantage of programs like Meals-on-Wheels or ask for assistance getting supplies. But for those who do live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, Mitchell and the Board of Public Health rolled out two new orders requiring twice-daily monitoring of the temperatures of all staff, regular checks on residents, and strict hygiene requirements.

“It’s our job to make sure these places are buttoned up so the virus doesn’t get in. It’s as plain and simple as that,” Mitchell said.

Facilities found to be in violation of the new order will be giving warnings, Mitchell said, but could face fines of $500 a day. Mitchell said he was issuing a second order putting similar requirements in place at group homes.

“When it comes to our seniors, there’s very little margin for error,” the mayor said.

Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker and the Department of Public Health had already put in place restrictions, consistent with federal guidelines, prohibiting most visitors to nursing homes and long-term care facilities and requiring anyone admitted to the facility to be screened for symptoms.

Mitchell acknowledged that the social restrictions being imposed on residents were challenging, but he pleaded with people to continue to observe the recommendations.

“The objective is to slow the rate of the spread of disease and more people will pick up immunity and the cases will drop. We’re nowhere near that point so we just have to stick with it,” he said.

Mitchell said the city, as well as SouthCoast Health, were in need of personal protective equipment like other places around the state, including 20,000 N95 masks that he was working to procure.

And he said employers in the area were struggling, including the Joseph Abboud and Titleist factories, where workers had been furloughed, and the city’s restaurants that had either closed or were struggling to make ends meet with take-out business.

“Nobody’s at par right now, and it stinks. It does. But this is what we’re dealing with right now,” he said.

As for that iconic fishing industry that New Bedford is known, it is not immune either.

“April 1 is start of the scallop season,” Mitchell said, “And there aren’t that many scallopers going out because of the drop in demand.”




New Bedford increasing health measures at senior living facilities, nursing homes, and lodging houses

New Bedford, Massachusetts – Mayor Jon Mitchell and the Board of Health have acted to protect residents including seniors in New Bedford, announcing stringent measures on wellness checks, quarantining, and isolation requirements for senior living facilities and nursing homes, as well as lodging houses, in New Bedford.

Mayor Mitchell’s proposal was approved unanimously by an emergency meeting of the Board of Health on Monday night and signed by the Mayor and Board.

Effective last night, the City requires managers of senior living facilities and nursing homes implement mandatory, strict health-based requirements for all staff members, including taking the temperatures of all facility staff members each day upon arrival to work, and before departure to work, and immediately sending home any staff member with a fever.

The City is also requiring that senior living facilities and nursing homes conduct regular wellness checks of all residents including phone calls or door checks, depending on the type of facility, and notification to the Health Department and resident’s emergency contact if there is an inability to confirm the resident’s wellness.

Stringent hygiene and sanitation precautions have been ordered at all senior living facilities and nursing homes. Managers of the facilities are required to ensure all staff are performing handwashing with soap, water, and/or alcohol-based hand rub before and after contact with any patient or resident, contact with any potentially infectious material, and before putting on or removing persona protective equipment, such as gloves.

Lodging houses have similarly been ordered to screen all potential guests seeking lodging for COVID-19 symptoms including by taking their temperature, taking the temperature of staff and sending them home with a fever, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, high-touch items and surfaces. Any potential guest with symptoms or a fever may only be provided if it is possible to give the potential guest a private bedroom and private bathroom.

Violation of any provision of the City’s order may result in a $500 per day fine for each violation.

Mayor Mitchell declared a state of emergency in New Bedford on March 13 due to the COVID-19 outbreak and has acted to enforce social distancing measures, including the closure of personal care businesses and playgrounds, to protect public health during the state of emergency.




Mayor Mitchell: New Bedford 33, Fairhaven 12 positive cases of COVID-19

At an 11 am press conference, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell reported that New Bedford has a total of 33 positive cases of COVID-19, up from 31 cases on Tuesday. He also reported Fairhaven with 12 positive cases and Dartmouth as unknown at this time.

According to Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan on Tuesday, Fall River now has 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19.. Bristol County is now up to 306 confirmed cases as of 4 pm on Tuesday.

Yesterday at 4pm, Massachusetts Public health officials report 33 new deaths and 868 more positive cases since Monday from COVID-19.

Governor Baker has stated on Monday that a surge in coronavirus cases could start to hit Massachusetts between April 7 and April 17, stressing the importance of taking steps to prepare additional health care capacity.




New Bedford COVID-19 animal food program to provide animal food for the elderly, disabled, and veterans who may be in need

“We have a few videos to share from a very special project we are participating in.

The COVID-19 animal food program is a collaboration between New Bedford Animal Control, Forever Paws, Humane Society and the Coalition for Animals Pets Eat Too Program.

During the pandemic, we are partnering with those organizations to provide animal food for the elderly, disabled, and veterans who may be in need. Folks in those communities may be at greater risk heading out to public places and we want to keep our pet owners safe. A people’s problem is an animal problem and our coalition’s slogan is Helping People Helping Animals. So true right now.

If anyone in the three categories needs animal food or if you would like to donate to this program please reach out to any of the Partnering organizations! If you would like to order online at Mellissa Pet Depot, New Bedford Animal Control will pick it up at the Fairhaven or Dartmouth stores. www.mellisaspetdepot.com

Watch for more videos!” -New Bedford Police Department Animal Control.




Massachusetts Senate Committee approves legislation protecting renters and homeowners

By Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

The Senate Ways and Means Committee late Tuesday approved emergency legislation providing temporary protections for renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 emergency, measures intended to ensure housing security while people are being advised to stay home to achieve collective public health goals.

Under the bill, courts would be prohibited from entering a default judgement for a plaintiff for possession of a residential dwelling in a non-essential eviction action, or from scheduling a court event in such an action. The bill also prohibits a landlord from imposing a late fee for non-payment of rent, or furnishing rental payment data to a consumer reporting agency related to the non-payment of rent, if the tenant provides documentation to the landlord not more than 30 days after the missed rent payment that the non-payment was due to a financial impact from COVID-19.

The restrictions would remain in place for 90 days following the bill’s passage, or until the COVID-19 emergency is terminated, whichever is sooner.

To protect homeowners, the bill (S 2621), under the same time limitations, prohibits a mortgagee, for the purpose of foreclosure of a residential property, from causing notice of a foreclosure sale to be published; exercising a power of sale, exercising a right of entry, initiating a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure process, or filing a complaint to determine the military status of a mortgagor.

The bill also includes language to assist people applying for a reverse mortgage, enabling them to receive counseling via real-time video conference rather than in person, an apparent effort to facilitate the social distancing measures that public officials say are critical to slowing the virus’ spread.

The bill was approved as House leaders continue to work on bill with a similar goal and amidst reports that tenants and homeowners, despite assurances from Gov. Charlie Baker, are growing anxious about the consequences of missing April 1 payments due to job and income losses stemming from the pandemic.

The House and Senate plan sessions at 11 a.m. Wednesday and further action on the housing security legislation is possible, though legislative leaders have not disclosed agenda items for the sessions. Most lawmakers have stopped attending sessions during the state of emergency, leaving work to a skeleton crew.

Eighty community groups and unions signed a recent letter to Beacon Hill leaders urging passage of a tenant-homeowner protection bill.

Lew Finfer, co-director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, said that despite Gov. Charlie Baker’s assurances that nobody can be evicted while the housing courts are closed due to coronavirus, many renters don’t understand that and are putting themselves at risk to try to pay rent.

“The courts are closed but that message isn’t generally out there to tenants and if they’re getting eviction notices they think they’re in trouble. They’re desperate and doing whatever they need to do to be able to pay their rent, or they’re moving,” he said.

Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association has urged a freeze on non-essential evictions. The housing advocacy group is also calling on the state to assist residents with rent or mortgage payments in cases of financial hardship exacerbated or caused by COVID-19, and to provide resources to landlords and owners so they can maintain properties and operations while rental income declines and costs associated with the crisis increase.

According to members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, a portion of a $2 billion pot of aid included in the new $2 trillion CARES Act is aimed at providing assistance to prevent evictions.

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