Cooperative Public Health Service Health District Update for Member Towns:
Public Health Nursing Update: The CPHS Public Health Nursing Team is hard at work reaching out to and supporting people with a COVID diagnosis and their contacts in the 18 towns they are covering. As of 4/13, we have a total of 20 (18 lab-tested and 2 clinically diagnosed) COVID-19 cases. 12 people have recovered, 7 are still in isolation, and one has passed away. 16 people in the are under quarantine, and 20 people have been released from quarantine after showing no signs of illness for 14 days. We have arranged for a number of school nurses to serve as additional surge capacity in our communities, and have systems in place to take them up on their kind offers of assistance. The nurses are grateful for all the wonderful work at the community level to support both patients and other community members who are in distress.
First Responder Data Sharing: We continue to receive questions about how we can better protect first responders visiting homes of potentially COVID-positive residents during the pandemic. The DPH Commissioner’s Order requires us to only share addresses with emergency dispatch, and HIPPA exemptions for emergencies that do exist for healthcare entities do not apply to local public health nurses.
Taking these legal limitations into account, we have developed a system in collaboration with the Mass State Police Shelburne Control to effectively provide critically needed information in a timely manner to first responders:
- The address for any new case identified in the 18 towns served by the FRCOG’s Public Health Nursing Team is shared with Shelburne Control within the first hour. As we learn the addresses of close contacts of that patient, those addresses are added as well.
- All Police Chiefs are able to query the Shelburne Control system and get the active addresses for their community.
- Fire, Police, and EMS who are dispatched to an address will be notified by Shelburne Control if the address they are responding to is on the list. If the call is originating from another dispatch, dispatchers will find out if the caller/address was screened, prior to sending the call out for response.
- Fire and EMS who are responding to addresses for non-emergency calls that are not routed through Shelburne Control are encouraged to call Dispatch and check the address.
Please note that at this point Franklin County is experiencing widespread community transmission, and many cases of COVID-19 exist in the community without a lab test. The fact that an address is NOT in the Shelburne Control system is not a protection for first responders, and the FRCOG strongly urges all first responders to wear PPE on all calls.
Towns currently served by the FRCOG Public Health Nursing Team: Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Conway, Colrain, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Hawley, Heath, Leverett, Leyden, Monroe, Northfield, Rowe, Shelburne, Warwick, and Wendell.
Health Agent Update: In the past week CPHS Health Agents continued working with Boards of Health to enforce the new Executive Orders from Governor Baker. Agents contacted and/or visited all retail food outlets to check-on their operations and procedures are asking them to follow the applicable guidelines written and issued for grocery stores. As the weather warms, Agents are getting guidance to food outlets to prevent people from utilizing outdoor dining areas.
We sent out letters to all MA Dept of Revenue (DOR) listed short-term rentals in our towns, except Buckland, who had already sent letters. Our Boards of Health are working diligently to keep up with the constantly changing landscape, and the staff is working to assist the Boards in any way they need assistance. In other news, CPHS Health Agents are continuing work, where possible, on Septic System Inspections, percolation tests, well permits, plan reviews, enforcement, as well as continuing to update and improve the CPHS on-line permitting system.
Park and Trail Signs: New social distancing signs for parks and trails have been ordered and will be available for CPHS Towns on or near April 17.
Oversight Board Meeting: We hope to see you online on April 23!