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.

Governor Baker says 13 now dead at Holyoke Home for Veterans

Colin A. Young
State House News Service

The number of veterans who have recently died at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home has climbed to 13, six of whom tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday afternoon as he pledged to “figure out what happened” at the home.

The state-run facility that cares for a little more than 250 veterans was placed under the control of a new leader and a clinical command team Monday after Superintendent Bennett Walsh was put on paid administrative leave.

The mayor of Holyoke, Alex Morse, said Tuesday in a Facebook video that he got an anonymous tip Saturday morning about conditions and “the gravity of the situation” at the soldiers’ home and then spoke with Walsh on Sunday, which was the first he learned about deaths at the facility.

“The superintendent let me know that there had been eight veteran deaths between Wednesday and Sunday without any public notification, without any notification to my office, and also just no notification to the state government that oversees this facility in the first place,” Morse said. He added, “If they followed guidelines, we would have been notified and we weren’t.”

Baker said Tuesday afternoon that he, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders first learned of the situation at the soldiers’ home Sunday night when they spoke with Morse.

“We will get to the bottom of what happened and when, and by who,” the governor said. He said the state’s priority right now is to stabilize the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and ensure the residents there are properly cared for. Baker added, “We will figure out what happened and we will deal with that.”

Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said he was shocked to learn of the deaths in Holyoke and that the news was “even more personal to me because I have an uncle who is a full-time resident there.” He said he has spoken with Sudders and the Mass. Nurses Association “to share my concerns about the conditions at the home and to learn more about their plans to move forward.” Neal also said he plans to discuss the situation there with the governor directly. “Simply put, there must be accountability for what happened in Holyoke,” Neal said.

Massachusetts reports 33 new deaths since yesterday from COVID-19

Massachusetts Public health officials report 33 new deaths and 868 more positive cases since yesterday from COVID-19. The highest total deaths from COVID-19 in a single day in Massachusetts was 10.

There are now 6,620 total positive cases with 89 total deaths in Massachusetts. In the same 24-hour period, health officials tested 4,142 people bringing the total to 46,935 people tested for COVID-19 in the state.

Bristol County now has 306 posiive cases with New Bedford reporting a total of 31 positive cases.

According to the CDC, as of March 31st, the total amount of cases in the country is 163,539 with 2,860 dead.

Mattapoisett and Marion Boards of Health confirm positive cases of Coronavirus

While the Mattapoisett Board of Health confirmed that the town has its first positive cases of COVID-19, it was tight-lipped about the actual number of cases and whether those individuals were at hospital being treated or they were self-quarantined.

“As COVID-19 testing capabilities expand in Massachusetts and transmission of the disease continues throughout the State, we will see an increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 here in Mattapoisett. Local community spread of COVID-19 is happening now, including in Mattapoisett,” said Mattapoisett Board of Health agent Kayla Davis.

In addition, Marion Health Director Karen Walega confirmed the town’s first positive case of COVID-19 and that the person was in isolation.

The remaining town within the “tri-town” region, Rochester, has yet to declare a single case.

This announcement comes 2 days after the town of Acushnet announced their first positive case of COVID-19 and 6 days after the town of Fairhaven announced their first case. Both individual are in self-quarantine.

New Bedford has a total of 31 positive cases, Fall River now has 20 confirmed cases and Massachusetts as a whole has 5,752 cases with 54 deaths.

Governor Baker extends non-essential business closures in Massachusetts to May 4

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced several updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak including extending the non-essential business emergency order and guidance for Executive Branch employees until May 4. The Department of Public Health’s Stay-At-Home Advisory remains in effect. The Administration also updated the “COVID-19 Essential Services” categories for businesses and other organizations that provide essential services and workforces related to COVID-19 that are permitted to operate brick and mortar facilities during the emergency.

Essential Services Order: Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order requiring that all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public will be extended until May 4. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order. This order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people until May 4th.

The Administration updated the “COVID-19 Essential Services” list today, which is based on federal guidance that was updated earlier this week. The new list will go into effect tomorrow, April 1, at noon. While these businesses are designated as essential, they are urged to follow social distancing protocols for workers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH).

Some of the updates to the essential services list include:

– Clarity around the supply chain that supports other essential services
– Adding health care providers like chiropractors and optometrists
– Expanding the types of workers providing disinfectant and sanitation services

Hotel/Motel Guidance: As part of the updated essential business list, DPH issued new guidance today around hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals. Based on this new guidance, hotels, motels, and short-term rentals may only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, like front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been otherwise displaced from their residences.

Stay at Home Advisory: Last week, Governor Charlie Baker directed DPH to issue a stay-at-home advisory, and the Governor announced today that the advisory will remain in effect. Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19 should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible

Executive Branch Employee Guidance: The Baker-Polito Administration today also extended the guidance issued to Executive Branch employees on protocol during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure state government can continue to provide key services while protecting the health and safety of the public and the Executive Branch workforce. Under the guidance, all employees performing non-core functions who are able to work remotely should continue to do so until May 4. Full guidance will be sent to Executive Branch employees later today.

Some Executive Branch services and walk-in offices remain open, but residents are encouraged to use online services when available. For the status of in-person Executive Branch office locations, please click here.

Field Medical Station Announcement: The Commonwealth, through MEMA, has requested and received approval for a Field Medical Station that will provide additional medical care capacity as the state plans for a surge in cases. The federal Strategic National Stockpile has approved a 250-bed field medical station that will be deployed to the DCU Center in the City of Worcester this week. This temporary facility will be managed by UMass Memorial and staffed by a partnership including the City of Worcester and others. The temporary field medical center will be used to treat lower acuity patients who still need monitoring.

Nursing/Rest Home Program: The Commonwealth is implementing a pilot project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The pilot will operate under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge, and samples will be collected by trained personnel from the Massachusetts National Guard. Prior to this launch, the only way for nursing home residents to be tested would be to be transported to a hospital or physician’s office.

Members of the public should continue checking www.mass.gov/covid19 for the latest information on impacts from the COVID-19 outbreak.

New Bedford reports 31 total cases of COVID-19, up 4 cases since Monday

According to the New Bedford Mayor’s office, New Bedford has a total of 31 positive cases of COVID-19 as of 10:30 am on Tuesday, March 31. This is an increase of 4 since Monday when 27 total were reported. The sharp increase this week is mostly due to a spike in testing.

According to Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan on Monday, Fall River now has 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 8 from on Sunday. Bristol County is now up to 263 confirmed cases.

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.

As of 4 pm on Monday, the Massachusetts Department of Health statistics show a rise in total COVID-19 cases to 5,752 with 54 total deaths. 42,793 people total have been tested.

Statement from Bristol DA Quinn Regarding ACLU/CPCS Petition for Mass Release of Inmates

The following is a statement from Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III

“A petition filed by the ACLU and CPCS has requested the mass release of thousands of defendants, many of whom are dangerous individuals and career criminals. For reasons of public safety and common sense, I strongly oppose this petition.

Seven of the 11 district attorneys, the Massachusetts Office of Victims Assistance, the trial court, local police departments and others have all filed an opposition to the petition.

I am very mindful of the serious public health crisis that is afflicting our country.

I am concerned for everyone’s welfare, especially our heroic medical workers, grocery employees, first responders and anyone putting themselves in danger for the public good.

I am very concerned about the well-being of the thousands of victims whose rights would be violated by the mass release of thousands of individuals from our jails and prisons. This would jeopardize both their physical and mental well-being, especially in cases of domestic violence.

We need to make rational decisions so that there are not grave, unintended consequences from rash and ill-conceived decisions.

Correctional facilities have implemented stringent protocols to protect inmates and staff from the Coronavirus. As of this writing, no one has tested positive in the Bristol County jails. These facilities have dealt with significant health-related issues in the past and have the expertise and experience to protect the inmates.

We are now receiving a number of motions for the release of very dangerous defendants who have no business being out on the street. While I am concerned for everyone’s welfare, this appears to be an attempt to manipulate this serious public health crisis to obtain their release from jail.

Ensuring public safety is my primary duty. It is a duty that underlies all government action. I will continue to review cases on an individual basis, but I am strongly opposed to the wholesale release of defendants who are properly in custody. Releasing many defendants to the street is against the public interest and should not be done in a society based on the rule of law. ​”

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