COVID-19 UPDATE 4/14/20

April 14, 2020

Municipal Leader COVID-19 Update #4

Timely updates on the public health crisis for Boards of Health, Selectboards, Town Administrators, First Responders and Emergency Managers.

Helpful Links:

New Executive Orders Impact Grocery Stores, Campgrounds

New Grocery Store Guidance

Grocery stores are a vitally important business during this crisis. Concern about how to protect their functions and their workers, as well as shoppers at the stores, has resulted in a new Executive Order limiting occupancy to 40% of a store’s normal maximum, including employees. Have a question about the occupancy number currently for a store in your town? The COVID Command Center suggests asking local Building Inspectors.

Campgrounds / RV Parks

The state has clarified that RV Parks which house people year-round are considered essential and may stay open. People who live there year-round may continue living there. However, campgrounds/RV parks, etc., that are only open seasonally are not considered essential and may not open. This includes situations where people rent the space year-round and leave a vehicle there in the off-season. These are not considered second-homes and the sites may not be opened for the season until the order on essential businesses is rescinded.

Essential and Non-Essential Services:

The state has a continuously updated list of specific questions regarding what services are or are not considered essential:


Message from the MAPHCO Joint Information System:

Boards of Health interested in sharing information with residents can find a Word version of the MAPHCO weekly tips for communication here.


Is social distancing working? People in in our communities are staying home, washing their hands, and wearing facial coverings when they must go out. The state and healthcare institutions are adding testing capacity, and local public health is working tirelessly to stop the spread of COVID-19. But no one wants to do this forever. We all want to know: when can we return to normal life?

The good news is that these preventive measures are helping to “flatten the curve.” Unfortunately we have not seen the peak of the pandemic yet. The state estimates the peak will fall in mid-April, but some experts believe that it will arrive later in Western MA (May or June). This means that we must encourage our citizens to continue aggressive preventive measures to spread the infections over a longer period of time. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Task Force, said on April 8 “What’s really important is that people don’t turn early signs of hope into releasing from the 30 days to stop the spread. . . . If people start going out again and socially interacting, we could see an acute second wave really early.”

So, citizens and public officials need to do all we can to reduce the daily case growth rate and stretch out the curve. By doing so, we can save lives.


Nursing Home On-Site Testing and Family Hotline

As cases of COVID-19 infection in the residents and staff of long term care facilities across the state expand, there are two important updates this week:

First, the procedures for requesting onsite testing through the National Guard have changed, and have been expanded to more kinds of facilities. Please click here to read the new guidance.

Second, families with loved ones in nursing homes in Massachusetts can use a new hotline to get information and resources, coordinated across state agencies. Call anytime, 9 AM to 5 PM, 7 days a week: 617-660-5399?

BOH Message Exchange

Looking for language to use in your Board of Health Facebook page, mailings, or Reverse 911 messages? Interested in what other communities are sending out to Airbnb hosts or second home owners about the Governor’s Executive Order on out-of-state visitors?

?Check out the new Board of Health Message Exchange at the FRCOG’s COVID-19 Municipal Resources page. Have a message to share? Email it to and we will upload it to the Exchange!

News from the Department of Public Health

Weekly Conference Calls for Local Boards of Health and the State

  • DPH continues to hold statewide calls on Tuesdays at 3:00 PM. These calls have DPH staff from a variety of departments available for answering questions including Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Environmental Health. The number for this call is 888-390-5007 and the participant code is 6137873.
  • The Governor’s Command Center also holds a weekly call with Boards of Health every Friday at 9:00 AM. Boards of Health are asked to only have one person dial in as phone lines are limited. Dial in information is: 888-390-5007 with Passcode 4847016.
  • In addition, DPH has been holding a weekly call related to MAVEN that the public health nurses have been participating in.

State Contact Tracing Initiative

Over the next few weeks the COVID Command Center’s new Contact Tracing Collaborative will go live. Details are still in the works, but the collaborative plans to provide surge support to public health nurses across the Commonwealth for the important work of contact tracing – identifying everyone who has been exposed to each person diagnosed with COVID-19, and reaching out to them to explain the need to quarantine, and how to do it.

Board of Health Crisis Response Grants

All local Boards of Health have access to state COVID-19 Emergency Response funding to support public health nursing and risk communication, as well as some supports for persons under quarantine or isolation orders. For more information on the allowable costs, how to report Town spending, and more, click here.

Attorney General’s Vaping Advisory

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is asking for help in getting the word out about the increased danger of COVID-19 infection for those who use e-cigarettes, and reminding people about quitting resources they can access from home. Click here for flyer to distribute.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. All Police Chiefs are able to query the Shelburne Control system and get the active addresses for their community.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!


More Resources to Share with Your Residents

Help for Families during the Stay at Home Order

This is a particularly difficult time for many people in our region, with the stressors of unemployment, school cancellation, and social distancing piling up. Some important resources you can share with residents include:

  • The Greenfield Safe Schools Safe Streets Coalition (4SC) and Gill-Montague Community School Partnership have shared resources for families on: talking with children about COVID-19, stress and anxiety, educational resources for kids while schools are closed, volunteer opportunities, and more!


Resources for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19:

While the health crisis is a major challenge to Franklin County, the economic impacts of this outbreak are also already severe. Click here to learn more about resources for businesses.

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