July 2, 2020: Town of Bedford Bi-Weekly Update on COVID-19

Phase 3 of Reopening the Economy, Housing Resources, Town Meeting and Fourth of July Celebrations
July 2, 2020 Image

Town of Bedford Update on COVID-19
July 2, 2020

The Bedford COVID-19 Task Force met Thursday, July 2, 2020 to review the latest guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH), the office of Governor Charlie Baker, and Town Legal Counsel.

The COVID-19 Task Force is comprised of the following Town officials:

Sarah Stanton, Town Manager
Jon Sills, Superintendent of Schools
Heidi Porter, Director of Health and Human Services
Robert Bongiorno, Police Chief
David Grunes, Fire Chief
Taissir Alani, Facilities Director

Case Counts

As of today, July 2, 2020, there have been a total of two hundred fifty-seven (257) positive cases of COVID-19 reported to the Town of Bedford Board of Health by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH), of those, one hundred forty-six (146) are Bedford residents not living in a healthcare/long term care setting. The deaths of forty (40) Bedford residents have been attributed to COVID-19. The total case number includes residents of the Town of Bedford, including but not limited to those in: single-family homes, apartments, the VA campus, Hanscom Air Force Base, special needs group homes and any and all other larger assisted living/care facilities in Bedford as reported to us by the MA DPH.

As you may be aware, long-term care facilities serving the elderly and congregate care facilities, house susceptible populations with underlying conditions who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Increased testing occurs at these facilities and results in more positive cases being identified. As such, cities and towns with these facilities, like Bedford, experience elevated positive case counts and, unfortunately, deaths due to the vulnerability to COVID-19 of the populations within those facilities.

One hundred thirty-four (134) of the total Bedford cases have already recovered and have come off isolation and there may other Bedford residents who would be considered persons under investigation in that they are symptomatic, have undergone testing but have not yet received results. There are other individuals impacted by COVID-19 in the community that have not sought medical attention, and/or have not been tested and are isolating at home regardless. Those individuals do not appear on the surveillance reports the Town receives from the MA DPH.

The Board of Health continues to do the appropriate follow-up and outreach to those residents and close contacts known to us and the VA is conducting follow-up and contact tracing of the Veteran’s under their care. Many of the identified close contacts of some of the Bedford cases never exhibited symptoms, have completed their required quarantine period and have been released from quarantine by the Board of Health.

Please note, in part to alleviate the community concern, the VA does do a daily report of their numbers, which includes inpatients, outpatients and staff, many of whom do not call Bedford home. The information can be found here: https://www.accesstocare.va.gov/Healthcare/COVID19NationalSummary

Phase 3 of Reopening the Economy to Start Monday, July 6th

Today, Governor Baker announced that Phase 3 of the state’s gradual reopening will begin Monday, July 6th. As occurred in previous Phases, all businesses will be required to comply with the General Workplace Safety Standards at all times, and specific sectors will have additional requirements. Businesses currently included in Phase 3 of the Reopening Plan include gyms, fitness centers, museums, casino gaming floors, movie theaters and aquariums. Professional sports teams will also be able to hold games without spectators.

For details on which businesses are allowed to open in Phase 3 and for sector specific guidance, please navigate to the state’s webpage on Reopening Massachusetts - https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-when-can-my-business-reopen

Town Meeting to be held Saturday, July 11th at 9 AM

At their May 27, 2020 meeting, the Select Board voted to recommend, with the full support of the Town Moderator, that Annual Town Meeting be held on Saturday, July 11, 2020, at 9:00 AM on Sabourin Field (Bedford High School Football Field). After much consultation and consideration among the Select Board, Public Health Director, Town Clerk, Town Moderator, and the COVID-19 Task Force, the Town is confident that Annual Town Meeting can occur outside, while making the process as safe as possible and ensuring that the democratic and legislative functions of Town Meeting remain intact. This decision followed weeks of work and site evaluations by the Select Board, Town Moderator, and the COVID-19 Task Force. Please note, as the Governor’s order regarding large-group outdoor gatherings does not allow for tents, as they are considered a “confined space,” the meeting is beginning at 9:00 AM, with registration starting at 8:00 AM, to allow for cooler temperatures.

A Special Town Meeting will occur within Annual Town Meeting to consider one warrant article for a proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement for Ultragenyx Corporation, for vacant land at 170 Middlesex Turnpike. 

COVID-19 Safety Measures – If you are feeling sick on the morning of Town Meeting and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms (fever, chills or shaking chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, headache, body aches/myalgia, or new loss of sense of taste or smell) please stay home and contact your healthcare provider. In order to ensure the safety of all residents, all attendees will be required to wear face coverings for the entirety of Town Meeting. A mask will be provided by the Town, if you do not have one. Physically distanced chairs will be set up on the turf field, and Town staff will guide residents to their seats in order to ensure proper distancing. Staff will also assist residents with how to properly leave the field once Town Meeting has concluded. Hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and ADA-accessible portable restrooms will be available for all attendees.

The Town Meeting webpage has a ton of information to help residents prepare, including important logistical information, both warrants, article presentations, and Finance Committee documents. Residents are strongly encouraged to review these materials ahead of the 11th. Please navigate to https://www.bedfordma.gov/town-meeting

Housing Resources during COVID-19

On April 20, 2020 Governor Baker approved the Moratorium on Eviction during the Covid-19 Emergency. This protection will end on August 18, 2020 unless the legislature extends the deadline. The intent of this law is to keep tenants from being evicted, and from having to cope with the eviction process, in the midst of our current public health crisis. However, tenants will ultimately still be responsible for lease payments to their landlord. In an effort to clarify tenants’ rights and responsibilities under the law, the  Massachusetts Department of Housing and Development (DHCD)  issued more detailed guidance for tenants: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dhcd-guidance-and-form-instructions-for-tenants-eviction-moratorium/download

Additionally, the Mass. Housing Partnership (MHP) developed a resource guide for tenants and others facing financial distress due to the emergency.  This is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese on MHP’s website: https://www.mhp.net/news/2020/resources-for-tenants-during-covid-19-pandemic

Homeowners who may be falling behind on mortgage payments, or in danger of doing so, should seek advice on their best course of action and may choose to negotiate an altered payment schedule or refinance at a lower interest rate. Some useful resources for homeowners are:

Some non-profit organizations that offer foreclosure counseling are:

As you Celebrate our Nation - Please keep safety in mind!

With the 4th of July weekend upon us, undoubtedly many will want to celebrate with community, family and friends. In doing so, pleases don’t forget that COVID-19 is still present in our community and across our state so all activities should be enjoyed with a mindful eye to precaution.

At the Beach - If you’re headed to the beach, be responsible and keep your beach blankets and belongings 12 feet away from other parties to maintain physical distancing. The lifeguard’s job is to protect you while you’re in the water but by you taking necessary precautions for yourself and your household, you can help keep yourself and others safe from spreading COVID-19. Leave your beach balls at home. There is no ball throwing allowed at beaches. It’s important to wear a mask when you’re not swimming. If the beach looks too crowded, it might not be safe. Try finding another beach or go back another day.

4th of July Celebrations – If you’re attending an allowed public or private celebration over the weekend, remember that safe, responsible participation includes:

  • Assessing your personal COVID-19 risk and assess and discuss COVID-19 risk for those you live with, before attending the event.
  • Staying home if you are sick.
  • Wearing or bringing a face covering over your nose and mouth when out of your house.
  • Avoiding large crowds. While gatherings larger than 10 people are allowed in unconfined spaces, they can still represent a risk to public health in our current environment.
  • If you choose to be in a crowd, practice strict social distancing, wear a face covering, bring hand sanitizer or wash hands before and after, do not shake hands, hug, or have long face to face conversations and avoid touching your face.
  • Keeping 6 feet away of from other people who are not in your household.
  • Good social distancing also includes dogs. Keep them 6 feet away from those not in your household.
  • If you’re picnicking at a park, keep your blanket 12 feet away from other parties.
  • If you happen to find a public display of fireworks, view them from your vehicle or at a safe distance from other people.
  • Do not share water bottles or utensils for eating or serving of food.

A lot of these protocols have been part of our routine for the past several months. However, we may have to remind ourselves to apply them when a new event occurs that’s outside the routine. If you choose to celebrate outside your home, remember to apply the “3 Ws” – Wash your hands, Wear a mask, Watch your Distance!

Wishing you a Safe, Happy and Healthy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July