Town of Bedford Update on COVID-19
May 22, 2020
The Bedford COVID-19 Task Force met Friday, May 22, 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
As of today, May 22, 2020, there have been a total of one hundred eighty-eight (188) 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-three (53) 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.
What’s Open and Reopening in Bedford – What Can Individuals Do?
On Monday, May 18, 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19, guided by public health metrics. As of Monday, May 18th, Phase 1 of the reopening plan allowed for manufacturing facilities and construction sites to resume operation with applicable guidelines. Places of worship were also able to open for services, if they chose to do so, with specific guidelines and a capacity limitation of 40%. Essential businesses already in operation are permitted to continue operation but in compliance with the new guidance and, in some cases, capacity limitations. Hospitals and community health centers that attest to specific public health and safety standards were also allowed to begin to provide high priority preventative care, pediatric care and treatment for high risk patients. Mandatory safety standards, sector-specific protocols and best practices can be found on the MA DPH website on Reopening at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts#general-business-guidance-
This coming Monday, May 25th, additional Phase 1 sectors of the economy will be permitted to open including: lab space, office space – limited to 25% of capacity, limited personal services (only hair salons/barber shops/pet grooming, by appointment only), touchless car washes, retail (remote fulfilment and curbside pick-up only). Additionally, tennis courts and basketball courts will be open for non-contact, non-organized activities.
Also effective on May 18th, the Department of Public Health updated the Stay at Home Advisory, replacing it with a new, “Safer at Home” Advisory which instructs everyone to stay home unless they are headed to a newly opened facility or activity. It also advises those over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay home with the exception of trips required for health care, groceries, or that are otherwise absolutely necessary. All residents must continue to wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not possible, and individuals are advised to wash their hands frequently and be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms. Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect, except in unconfined outdoor spaces.
With the nice weather forecasted for this weekend, the Memorial Day holiday on Monday and an overall “antsy-ness” developing, the Bedford Board of Health and the COVID-19 Task Force, who have been working so diligently to keep you informed and protected during this epidemic, caution residents to be mindful that a slow and steady approach to regaining normalcy in our lives will indeed help us win the race. Just because something is allowed, or restrictions are loosened, doesn’t mean you have to jump into the fray at full speed. Please use social distancing. Please wear a face covering when leaving your home. Please wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Please do not touch your face. Please do not gather in large groups. Continue to slow the spread. Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday weekend!
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.