Town Hall and Public Building Closures: Town buildings and meetings
Open Meeting Law Guidance: Open Meeting Law Guidance
LBOH and First Responders Sharing of Critical Information Order: LBOH-first-responders-order-3-18-20
Pittsfield, MA March 25, 2020
Update on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Local Boards of Health (LBOH)
Please note: This is a rapidly evolving situation. BCBOHA will continue to provide updates and coordinate public messaging on the situation on a regular basis.
Closing of Non-Essential Businesses
On March 23, 2020, Governor Baker ordered all businesses not conducting essential COVID-19 business to close their physical premises to workers and the public until April 7, 2020. Restaurants and bars that sell food and beverages to the public are designated as essential services, but are limited to take-out and delivery services, and must maintain social distancing protocols set forth in DPH guidance that require all people to be at least six feet apart. No on premises consumption of food or drink shall be allowed. Although churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship are not deemed essential services, they may stay open if the limitations on gatherings are followed. Non-essential businesses that can continue work through remote means are encouraged to do so, as long as workers, customers and the public are not permitted to enter or appear at a bricks and mortar location. A list of COVID-19 essential services can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services/download.
Limitations on Gatherings
The March 24 order also limited gatherings to no more than 10 people. This order applies to all gatherings, without limitation, whether community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, sporting, concerts, conferences, conventions, parades, festivals, fairs, weddings, funerals, or any other event that brings together more than 10 people either indoors or out. The limitation does not apply to any business providing essential COVID-19 services. It also does not apply to gatherings in unenclosed outdoor spaces such as parking lots, parks or athletic fields. Recreational and sports activities that bring people into close physical contact are banned regardless of the number of people or where they are conducted.
The March 24 order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-23-2020-essential-services-and-revised-gatherings-order/download
Public Health Advisory
On March 24, 2020 the MA Department of Public Health issued a public health advisory strongly urging those who are 70 years and older and those with underlying health conditions to stay-at-home with the exception of essential trips for food, medicine, and focused time for exercise and fresh air. Those not providing essential services are also strongly advised to stay at home at this time to help protect those who are providing essential services. The DPH also urges keeping at least six feet between individuals who do not live in the same household at all times. Grocery stores and pharmacies must provide at least one hour per day for shoppers 60 years of age and older. Additionally, these establishments must include strategies to reduce COVID-19 exposure to their employees, including access to handwashing facilities, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, and procedures to ensure both employees and customers remain at least six feet apart at all times. Employees who are sick should not report to work and if they do come to work they must be sent home. The full advisory can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/dph-public-health-advisory-stay-at-home-advisory-for-individuals-over-70-and-for-those-with.
The Federal Government has recommended that all those leaving New York for other locations self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution. Berkshire municipalities with large numbers of second-home owners should be aware, and pay attention to short term rentals and hotels. We are seeking guidance from the state on whether short term rentals are an essential business like hotels.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns, eye shields and gloves remain in short supply throughout the Commonwealth and the country. The COVID-19 Command Center at the state, MEMA and other agencies are exploring all avenues to attain PPE for medical providers, Emergency Medical Services and other first responders and public health. DPH continues to distribute supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile and to seek donations of PPE from dental offices, vocational schools, construction and other businesses. Currently, PPE requests for health and public health are going through the Health and Medical Coordinating Coalitions (HMCC) while those for public safety and first responders are being directed through MEMA.
Guidance on Prioritization of PPE: https://www.mass.gov/doc/guidance-for-prioritization-of-personal-protective-equipment-ppe-in-massachusetts/download
PPE Request Process Chart: https://www.mass.gov/doc/ma-covid-19-ppe-request-process-chart/download
The Baker-Polito Administration has made money available to local municipalities essentially immediately to address public health costs incurred in responding to this outbreak. Funds will flow directly to the 14 largest cities in the state (only Springfield in Western Mass) and through the 15 existing health districts known to DPH, including the Berkshire Public Health Alliance and Tri-Town Health in Berkshire County. Municipalities that do not fit into either category will be aligned with a regional entity across the state, including several regional planning agencies, MHOA and MAHB. In Berkshire County, if your town is not part of either district, you will be aligned with Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Money should begin going out to municipalities with immediate need in the next few days. Allowable expenses include: Surveillance and case identification (including, but not limited to, public health epidemiological investigation activities such as contact follow-up), monitoring of travelers, Public Health Nurses, data management, isolation and quarantine (including, but not limited to, housing; wrap-around services; security; environmental control, clean-up and waste management; and behavioral health services), surge public health staffing, risk communications support, public health coordination with healthcare systems. Non-applicable funding areas include City/town municipal activities (law enforcement etc.) and food and other sundries.
Routine and other Board of Health Inspections
Given the State of Emergency, the LBOH has discretion to delay non-emergency inspections. Inspections should resume as normal at the termination of the State of Emergency.
A LBOH has discretion to decrease the frequency of food inspections under the retail food code. (105 CMR 590.008(H); FC 8-401.10.) During the declared State of Emergency, LBOH are not required to submit a risk-based facility inspection plan for approval. The Food Protection Program will provide technical assistance to review any emergency inspection plans for LBOH, upon request.
All food contact surfaces, equipment, and utensils used for the preparation, packaging, or handling of food products must be washed, rinsed, and sanitized before each use. Additionally, food establishments are strongly urged to frequently clean non-food contact surfaces, such as doorknobs, tabletops, chairs and menus. The EPA has a list of registered sanitizers labeled for use against the novel coronavirus which can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2. Additional guidance on inspecting food establishments has been sent out under separate cover.
Swimming Pools & Adult Tobacco Establishments
Swimming pools and adult tobacco establishments are not considered to be essential services and must be closed.
COVID-19 Testing in Berkshire County:
The drive-through testing facility at Berkshire Medical Center is currently operational. All testing requires a physician order. Symptomatic individuals may call the BMC hotline at 855-BMC-LINK, OR 855-262-5465. After hotline screening, those qualified will be referred for a telemedicine appointment with a physician, and if appropriate, given an order and a time for testing.
Berkshire County Emergency Operations:
The Northern Berkshire Operations Center, the Southern Berkshire REPC, and the Central Berkshire COVID-19 Coordinating Center are activated, and jointly working together to address needs across the County.
North Berkshire Operations Center
Operations Hotline: 413-662-3614 (8-5 weekdays, leave msg after hours).
Central Berkshire Covid-19 Coordinating Center
Phone: (413) 770-7663 (weekdays, not yet taking calls from the public or the media)
Southern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee (REPC)
The Southern Berkshire REPC is stood up and participating in information sharing with the Central County Coordinating Center and the North Berkshire Operations Center. The SBREPC is not taking inquiries from the public or media. The SBREPC can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information for Local Boards of Health
MDPH has created a page for COVID-19 information specific to Local Boards of Health at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-information-for-local-boards-of-health which includes emergency directives, resources for public communication, and frequently asked questions. DPH also holds weekly conference calls for Local Boards of Health on Tuesdays at 3:00 PM. DPH has also agreed to hold weekly conference calls with the Berkshire COVID-19 Working Group on Friday mornings for Berkshire specific questions. Dr. Dan Doyle from Berkshire Medical Center and the Dalton BOH is also holding weekly conference calls with the LBOH of Berkshire County, especially the medical personnel who are also on Boards of Health and chairs and other representatives.
Calls to your BOH:
If your BOH receives a call from someone experiencing respiratory symptoms or if a provider in your area receives a call from someone experiencing symptoms, please call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) 24/7 Epidemiology line at (617) 983-6800 for assistance and the latest recommendations for managing a Person Under Investigation (PUI). Individuals experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness can also call the Berkshire Health Systems Hotline at 855-262-5465 between the hours of 7am and 7pm, 7 days/week.
Questions from the General Public and Worried-Well:
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and United Way 211 call and information service is now operating 24/7, and is answering calls for community members who are not sick, but would like to receive information related to COVID-19. Residents across the state can also sign up for the new text notification system including updates, news and prevention information by texting COVIDMA to 888-777. Also encourage your residents to sign up for your municipalities outgoing-911 alert system (such as code red or similar).
On March 24, 2020 the Berkshire Eagle published an open letter from the Mayors of North Adams and Pittsfield, Berkshire Health Systems and BCBOHA for the 32 local boards of health urging all residents to stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19. This letter is available for posting on municipal websites or to be used in any other messaging, either in whole or part. Thank you to Dr. Dan Doyle for taking a suggestion on the Friday conference call and turning this letter into a reality.
Communication resources for the public available from the MA DPH include:
New DPH Flyer/Infographic on reducing stress & coping with fear of COVID-19: https://www.mass.gov/doc/coping-with-stress-and-fear-from-covid-19/download
DMH resources on maintaining Emotional Health & Well-Being: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/maintaining-emotional-health-well-being-during-the-covid-19-outbreak
New Social Distancing (youth and general) infographic: https://www.mass.gov/doc/how-young-people-can-prevent-covid-19-with-social-distancing/download
Social Distancing messages are now on billboards and will soon be available on public transit (including the BRTA).
New video on Social Distancing specifically targeted specifically at youth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DwOdh_wNi4&feature=youtu.be
COVID-2019 infographic for posting in all public places: https://www.mass.gov/doc/stop-the-spread-of-germsrespiratory-diseases-like-flu-and-covid-19/download
A short video for social media, waiting rooms, and other locations: https://youtu.be/HhUpkGxyjS4
Local Schools and School Closings:
On March 15, 2020 Governor Charlie Baker announced a three-week suspension of school operations at public and private elementary and secondary (K-12) schools in the commonwealth beginning Tuesday, March 17th and going through April 6. On March 25, that order was extended to close the schools through May 4, 2020. Food for those who ordinarily receive free or reduced school breakfast or lunch is available in many municipalities.
On March 18, Governor Baker issued an Executive Order requiring all early education centers and family childcare providers to close, starting Monday March 23. Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs will be the only childcare programs able to operate. Families who work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens will receive priority access to emergency childcare programs and these centers should only be used by people who must go to work. Vulnerable children will also receive priority access and space will be made for people who must go to work but aren’t necessarily emergency personnel.
More information on exempt emergency childcare providers can be found here: https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyProcedure
Recently, a new strain of coronavirus—2019 Novel (new) Coronavirus (COVID-19)—was detected in Wuhan, China. This novel coronavirus causes a respiratory (lung) infection. This new virus is related to, but different from, other coronaviruses that cause the common cold and diseases such as SARS and MERS. Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, shortness of breath and in severe cases, pneumonia (fluid in the lungs). Cases range from very mild to severe.
As of March 25, there have been 1,838 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, of which 71 are in Berkshire County. Delays in reporting and restrictions on testing have likely depressed these numbers well below actuals. The number of people tested in Massachusetts has more than tripled since Sunday from just over 6,000 to over 19,000. Those results should be seen within the next couple of days. There have been 15 deaths in Massachusetts, two of which were in Berkshire County. There have been 54,453 reported cases in the United States, with all states and the District of Columbia reporting cases, and 737 deaths. New York has the highest number of cases, followed by California, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey. Almost all countries across the globe have seen at least one case.
Updated daily information on Massachusetts’ case reports can be found at: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring.
Updated daily information (Monday-Friday) on US cases can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html.
MAVEN and Case Identification:
Posting of cases should be happening in a more timely manner going forward as bugs in the automated system are corrected. All Public Health Nurses or Boards should be checking your MAVEN twice a day during this period, including on weekends. If your community does have a case, DPH will also call your Public Health Nurse or Board directly. If you are a community not currently on MAVEN or if your community has a contract with Porchlight VNA (which is going out of business), please contact us. We may be able to provide Public Health Nursing services to your community related to COVID-19.
Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs):
The CDC is recommending personal preparedness and protective measures, including Personal Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs). NPIs are measures taken to help prevent the spread of diseases that do not include medications. Currently, there are no medications or vaccinations available to prevent COVID-19, however, everyone should practice these respiratory illness prevention protocols:
- diligent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- stay home from school, work and other people when you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever or a cough
- avoid close contact (within 6 feet) of people who are sick
- if you are over the age of 60 or have underlying health conditions you should stay home as much as possible.
With questions, Please Contact Allison Egan by email at email@example.com.
Please only use reputable sources for information gathering. Further information can be found at the following links. We recommend that you do not make multiple copies of fact sheets for your BOH office at this time as they are changing on a daily basis.
MDPH Information on COVID-19: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
HMCC Resources: https://region1hmcc.org/
CDC General Information Page on COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
CDC Communication Resources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/index.html
CDC Response Page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html#cdc-response
CDC Cases in the US: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html
CDC Guidance for Medical Professionals: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/index.html
CDC Information on Travel: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
CDC Information for Businesses & Travelers: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fguidance-business-response.html
The Berkshire County Boards of Health Association (BCBOHA) is a professional, educational organization serving the 32 local boards of health in Berkshire County, MA. BCBOHA also serves as the Berkshire County Emergency Preparedness Coalition.
Please note the new phone number to call for information about the septic installer certification program: Emily Kirby, 413-442-1521, x30. Note that BCBOHA is currently located in the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission offices (BRPC), so do not be concerned that this is a BRPC number when you call.
BCBOHA’s 2019-2020 Septic Installer recertification classes and new certification are now underway. Please click here for information on classes. Information about on-line courses can also be found in this letter, or you can also check the NEIWPCC website to see if there are additional in-person offerings that would qualify: http://www.neiwpcc.org/. Please contact us to be added to our mailing list, or if your contact information has changed.
For a list of currently certified installers, click here: BCBOHA Septic Installer List 3.30.20. If someone is not listed, please call 413-442-1521, x.30 to confirm certification status. This list is up to date for the 2020 year which ends on March 31, 2021.
The Executive Committee is elected by the 32 Member Municipalities to oversee BCBOHA operations, and usually meets the third Wednesday of the month, at 12:45 pm, at 1 Fenn St. Cancelled or rescheduled meetings will be noted here at least 24 hours in advance. Meeting Agenda can be found here at least 48 hours in advance. For a revised list of FY 20 expected meeting dates please click here.
The next BCBOHA Executive Committee meeting will be March 3, 2020. Please note that this is a change from the regularly scheduled date and time, and will take the place of both the February and March regularly scheduled meetings which have cancelled. It is expected that the Executive Committee will vote on concurrence with DPH’s FY2021 Emergency Preparedness grant application to the CDC at this meeting. All are welcome to attend.
Currently, no classes that meet the requirements of 105 CMR 590.009(E) have been scheduled. For more information or to be added to our mailing list please email Alliancenurse@berkshireplanning.org.
Temporary Food Event Trainings
If you are interested in a temporary food event training please contact us. This training is specifically aimed at temporary food operators and non-profit organizations who serve food.
For information related to the Emergency Preparedness Coalition, click here:
For other emergency preparedness information, click here: Emergency Preparedness
Facility “greening” guides. Feel free to reproduce and distribute as desired: