May 21, 2020: Town of Bedford Update on COVID-19

Important Updates: Case Monitoring and Contact Tracing
May 21, 2020: Town of Bedford Update on COVID-19

Town of Bedford Update on COVID-19

May 21, 2020

The Bedford COVID-19 Task Force met Thursday, May 21, 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

Current Cases

As of today, May 21, 2020, there have been a total of one hundred eighty-five (185) positive cases of COVID-19 reported to the Town of Bedford Board of Health by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) and thirty-seven (37) deaths of Bedford residents 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 which 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.

Fifty (50) of the total Bedford cases have already recovered and have come off of 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.

Case Monitoring and Contact Tracing

The Bedford Board of Health has consistently worked to identify, communicate with and conduct contact traces, as appropriate, on COVID-19 positive cases who are Bedford residents, living in Bedford, while the Bedford VA is conducting follow-up and contact tracing of the Veterans 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

There are some factors attributing to additional positive cases included in Bedford’s total case number that is reported weekly by the state. These factors include: staff testing at long term care facilities where those staff attributed their “location” to Bedford, when in fact they have residency in another community, and former residents who have identified their “home” as Bedford but actually live in and are being followed in another community/state. The attribution of a facility’s staff as being residents of a community, as is the case with Bedford, indeed skews the data and the surveillance work of the Board of Health. Rest assured that our Board of Health staff are working diligently to ensure not only our residents but staff and former Bedford residents who are attributed to Bedford are identified and followed by the appropriate community.

To that end, the Board of Health asks Bedford Residents to be part of the COVID-19 solution and “Answer the Call!” If you’ve tested positive for COVID- 19 or if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, a representative of the COVID Community Team, including the Bedford Community Health Nurse, the School Nurses and representatives from the MA Community Tracing Collaborative will be reaching out via phone to you and your close contacts to slow the spread. We’ll help support you and will help to keep track of symptoms to move you through isolation and quarantine appropriately. Your name will not be publically released but the information you can provide to us is imperative in slowing the spread so we can get to the other side of this outbreak.

Who’s at risk for COVID-19?

Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions appear to be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:

  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised. Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
    • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
    • People with diabetes
    • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
    • People with liver disease

If you’re in one of these vulnerable populations, regardless of allowable access to public areas and essential services, it is strongly advised that you:

  • Stay home, if possible;
  • Wash your hands often;
  • Keep space between yourself and others (stay 6 feet away, which is about two arm lengths); and,
  • Wear a mask when you cannot safely socially distance.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever, chills or shaking chills
  • Signs of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, lowered oxygen saturation)
  • Fatigue, sore throat, headache, body aches/myalgia, or new loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Other less common symptoms can include gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), rash, and inflammatory conditions such as “COVID toes”
  • In elderly, chronically ill, or debilitated individuals such as residents of a long-term care facility, symptoms of COVID-19 may be subtle such as alterations in mental status or in blood glucose control

Contact your health care provider if you exhibit any of the above mentioned symptoms and to discuss the need for testing. Close contacts of confirmed cases are the people most likely to become infected themselves. Close contacts, regardless of symptoms associated with COVID-19, should be tested as soon as possible after they are notified of their exposure to COVID-19.

You can use the following link, provided by the MA Department of Public Health, to find a convenient testing site https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-testing#testing-sites.

Heed the Speed (Limit)!

Due to safer at home orders, more folks working from home and school being out of session, traffic in our community and across the Commonwealth is significantly down during the COVID-19 pandemic. But disturbingly, the rate of fatal car crashes has nearly doubled across the state. This is caused by multiple factors including more open roads and people driving at dangerous speeds. Please remember that school aged children are not in school and many more pedestrians and bicycles are using our roadways. Please keep speeds down and in Bedford, unless otherwise posted, the speed limit is 25 MPH!

Seek help with any medical or health issues

If you experience any medical issues during this time, please call your doctor.  If you have an emergency, please go to the ER.  Medical offices and hospitals are abiding by strict protocols to keep patients safe. Please don’t let fear of this virus prevent you from seeking needed medical care and potentially exacerbating an issue that may cause you harm. You should call 9-1-1 for any serious medical or mental health emergency.