July 27, 2020: Town of Bedford Update on COVID-19

Important Updates: New travel order; Domestic Abuse resources; Food Bank - planning for a new location and day/time
Town update

The Bedford COVID-19 Task Force met Monday, July 27, 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

Over the past several weeks, the Bedford Board of Health conducted a comprehensive review of COVID-19 positive cases and the case count as reported to the town by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH). The review revealed duplicate cases, cases that belong to other jurisdictions, and cases reported to other jurisdictions that are actually Bedford residents, which has led to adjustments in the Bedford case count reported today. The data reporting discrepancies typically result from incomplete information provided by an individual at the time of testing. As more information is obtained by the Board of Health relative to ongoing case investigation, the total case count will be adjusted and reported accordingly.

As of today, July 27, 2020, there have been a total of two hundred seventy-five (275) positive cases of COVID-19 reported to the Board of Health by the MA DPH, of those, one hundred fifty-three (153) are Bedford residents not living in a healthcare/long term care setting. The deaths of forty-five (45) 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.

Two hundred twenty-six (226) 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

COVID-19 Travel Order

Effective August 1, 2020, all visitors and returning residents entering Massachusetts must follow new travel orders to help us keep COVID-19 transmission levels as low as possible. All visitors entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, who do not meet an exemption, are required to:

  • Prior to arrival in Massachusetts, complete the online Travel Form (https://www.mass.gov/forms/massachusetts-travel-form), unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the MA DPH.
  • Quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in Massachusetts.

If your COVID-19 test result has not been received prior to arrival, visitors, and residents must quarantine until they receive a negative test result.

MA DPH has indicated that failure to comply with the order may result in a $500 fine per day.

To find more information about the Travel Order, effective August 1, 2020, including the list of lower-risk states, exemptions, business guidance and other details, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-travel-order

For current travel information, applicable until the August 1st Travel Order takes effect, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/travel-information-related-to-covid-19

Check in on your Mental Health!

Summer is here and for many of us, in years’ past, that has meant relaxation, travel, sporting events, festivals and concerts. However, lingering concerns from COVID-19 have caused many traditional summertime activities to be canceled or they are just not the same, and many of us are experiencing fear, anxiety, and loneliness. The Bedford Health and Human Services Department reminds residents that it is possible to achieve a positive summer mindset and improve or maintain our mental health in uncertain times. Please see the self-care tips and suggestions in the following article to help you get moving, get outside and enjoy the sunshine: https://www.bedfordma.gov/youth-family/news/summer-mental-health-2020

When “Stay at Home” Isn’t Safe

Although communities have been asked to stay home to stay safe, home is a dangerous place when you face domestic abuse. Spikes in domestic and child abuse have been noted across the country and around the world since the onset of the COVID-19 stay-at-home directives as victims and witnesses of abuse find themselves isolated within their homes and confronted with difficult decisions about when and how to seek care or shelter.

Domestic Violence Services Network, Inc. (DVSN) is continuing to follow up on domestic violence referrals and requests for service on a daily basis and provides community advocacy and safety planning for anyone who calls in or is referred for help and support by law enforcement partners.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, DVSN clients need support more than ever and DVSN shall continue to provide CONFIDENTIAL support, advocacy, and resources via telephone to the extent possible.  For help and support, PLEASE CALL DVSN’s Help Line - 888-399-6111. As always, if you are in immediate danger, CALL 9-1-1 for police intervention. 

For tips on helping a friend who may be experiencing domestic violence, please navigate to: https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif2781/f/uploads/dvsn_helping_friend_dv_covid.pdf

It’s HOT outside, how to beat the heat while keeping social distancing in mind!

Hot temperatures and high humidity can cause heat illness to occur if you are not careful. With soaring temperatures in forecast for the next several days, please be mindful of ways to prevent heat related illness and stay safe.

  • Drink Plenty of Fluids. Increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink (Note: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot). Popsicles, watermelon, cantaloupe, fruit salads and Jell-o all contain a lot of water and summertime is the perfect time to indulge in such treats. Avoid caffeine and alcohol whenever possible.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Use a sunscreen product rated at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 and apply it liberally to all exposed skin at least 30-60 minutes before going out into the sun.
  • Stay Cool Indoors. Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned area. If your home does not have air conditioning, consider other locations that may have air conditioning. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be difficult to congregate in common areas indoors that you may have visited in the past to keep cool during these hot weather days. It is important to consider other areas that are safe and allow you to socially distance while trying to keep cool. If you will visit public places in order to keep cool, be prepared by taking a face covering and hand sanitizer with you.

The Bedford Health and Human Services Department has a limited supply of desk-top fans available for residents who may be in need during the hot weather. Additionally, if transportation is a limitation during this time, the Health and Human Services Department may be able to arrange a ride to public locations with air conditioning. If you or your family are in need during the heat, you may contact the following for additional information or assistance:

  • If you are over 60 years old, contact Danika Castle at the Council on Aging at 781-275-6825
  • If you are under 60 years old, contact Chris Bang at the Youth and Family Services Department at 781-275-7727

You can view the full Board of Health outreach article on preventing heat related illness by navigating to: https://www.bedfordma.gov/bedford-board-of-health/news/its-hot-outside-follow-these-tips-for-preventing-heat-related-illness. You can also visit the CDC website on extreme heat at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html.

Food Bank – Planning for a new location and day/time

The Town of Bedford has operated a successful drive through Food Bank every Friday from 1-3 pm at the John Glenn Middle School (JGMS) at 99 McMahon Road since the pandemic struck in mid-March. To date, over 3,500 bags of food, to supplement meal preparation during the week, have been provided to Bedford seniors, school children, Veterans and residents experiencing food insecurity.

In an effort to allow the school staff to prepare for reopening in the fall, the Food Bank location is shifting locations and distribution day/time, after the July 31st Food Bank at JGMS. Starting the first week in August, the Food Bank will be operated out of the Town Center Building (yellow building behind Town Hall) at 12 Mudge Way, situated on the Town Campus. The drive-through model will be maintained with residents pulling up to the front door of Town Center via the rotary. Signs directing residents to the location will be posted. The process for bag pick up will essentially be the same with cars pulling up to the door and a volunteer placing the bag in the car trunk, back cargo area or back seat. Residents do not get out of their vehicle. The new schedule for the Town Center Food Bank will be Thursdays from 4 - 5:30 pm, with the first event on Thursday, August 6th from 4 – 5:30 pm.

Families and guardians in need are welcome to continue to access Bedford's Food Bank.  Starting in August, the intention is to provide one robust bag of food per household in need, but separate bags will no longer be customized for school students.  For nutritious meals adhering to school nutrition guidelines, the summer nutrition program is Waltham is also available to Bedford families.  Please navigate to https://meals4kids.org/find-summer-meal-site for hours and directions, as well as information about other summer feeding programs for school children in the area. 

The Town Center Food Bank will continue to operate primarily on a drive-through basis, with limited exception for residents who are on foot. Those utilizing the Food Bank cannot park their car and walk up to the site. Residents should enter the Town Center rotary from Mudge Way and will be directed in reverse around the rotary. The separate Food Bank delivery system will continue to operate for homebound seniors, and disabled residents. If you are a homebound resident and in need of food assistance, please e-mail [email protected].

Thank you to the Bedford Food Pantry, Gaining Grounds in Concord, the Greater Boston Food Bank and donors to the Bedford Emergency Relief Fund for the continued support of this well needed effort which serves upwards of 150 families each week during this crisis.

“Stop the Spread” Testing Sites Open in 8 Communities

Free COVID-19 testing sites are open in eight communities as part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s “Stop the Spread” initiative. These sites will remain open until August 14th to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in communities that are above the state average in total cases and positive test rate, and have experienced a decline in testing levels since April. Residents of the communities of Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, and New Bedford are urged to take advantage of the availability of these new testing sites, even if they are asymptomatic. While testing sites were launched in these 8 communities, they are open to all residents of the Commonwealth. Visit www.mass.gov/stopthespread to find out more.

Common Sense Actions to Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19

Employ Social Distancing Basics:

  • Stay Home, especially if you’re feeling sick, have a fever, or a cough as to avoid contact with other individuals. If you are sick, stay at home and contact your healthcare provider for further instructions.
  • Call/Facetime/Online chat with friends and loved ones

If you go out for essential needs:

  • Avoid Crowds
  • Stay 6 feet away from others
  • Don’t shake hands or hug
  • Wear a face covering or mask if physical distancing is not possible. Always have a face covering with you. You cannot always predict or control when someone will be close to you.

Please wear a face mask