NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Officials say Massachusetts is well positioned at this point at address any expansion in the state of Covid-19, a coronavirus that's killed more than 3,000 worldwide.
"Massachusetts remains at low risk and has had only one confirmed case to date so far," said Gov. Charlie Baker in a press briefing in Boston on Monday afternoon. "Our top priority remains the health and safety of our residents."
Appearing with Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Monica Bharel and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, the governor said the Department of Public Health has launched a website to apprise the public of news and updates on Covid-19 and the state has been working with the federal government, schools, local boards of health and medical facilities.
Baker said he had participated in a conference call Monday with federal officials at the White House along with governors from across the country.
"We were briefed on current travel restrictions that are posted on the CDC and Department of Homeland Security websites and provided in update on resources and supplies that are being stockpiled and made available necessary," the governor said. "So far our Department of Public Health has taken several strategic steps to respond to the corona virus and to help the public stay safe and prepare."
Sudders said residents can take simple precautions:
Thoroughly wash your hands in warm, soapy water often
Don't touch your mouth, eyes or face
Cover coughs and sneezes
Clean frequently touched areas like doorknobs, table, switches and counters with household detergent
Stay home if you feel sick
Have a preparedness checklist ready
"We have been engaged in constant planning since January," she said. That's included ongoing talks with the Centers for Disease Control, as well as email messages and conference call updates with local boards of health, hospitals and community health centers, schools and school nurses, laboratories and long-term care physicians.
"Communication with the general public is essential," Sudder added, pointing to the DPH fact sheet inserted into 17,000 Berkshire Eagle papers on Saturday and public messaging that would begin on roadway electronic boars and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.
The state has reported 608 individuals who may been exposed to the virus of whom 377 have completed a two-week quarantine period and have shown no symptoms. Sudders said the one individual who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 was "recovering well."
The outbreak has been traced to Wuhan, China, and has spread to some 60 countries now, including the United States. Six people have now died in Washington state and there are 18 confirmed cases there. Outside of China, from which travel is being restricted, some of the hotspots are now South Korea, Italy and Iran.
A Pittsfield family of five who came from a low incidence area of China is currently "self-quarantined" after being cleared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Newton on Monday announced that 22 people, including 19 students, who traveled to Italy have been told not to attend school and asked to isolate themselves. Late Monday, there was the report of a second individual who tested positive after a trip to Italy.
Flights from China have been rerouted to 11 airports in the United States. Logan International is not one of those airports but authorities are paying attention to passengers, Bharel said.
"At the airport, there is a routine screening that is done to look for any individual who may appear sick or need further assistance and that screening is ongoing," she said. "At this time, the CDC guidance is to be aware. And if you've been to a high risk area and develop symptoms to contact a health-care provider."
An incident command structure has been put in place to facilitate information sharing between state leadership, the federal government and local health and community leaders.
"Engaging Massachusetts hospitals and health system leadership is a critical piece of our work," said Bharel "And we are providing them with clinical and infection control, prevention guidance and supporting their search planning procedures and protocols, including bed capacity, staffing and supplies."
Of critical importance, the state's public health lab was given the green light to begin performing diagnostic testing for the virus.
"This is good news for Massachusetts as testing at the state public health lab enables us to speed up obtaining the test results and expedience ongoing testing of any confirmed cases that are recovered," Bharel continued.
Officials said there were no plans to cancel events with large numbers of people but Bharel urged individuals who were not feeling well not to attend such events.
Baker said he was satisfied with the support the state is getting from the federal government.
"The mere fact that they did what they did with respect to China in the first place, and the fact that they put some pretty heavy travel criteria in place for many other countries, it's a pretty clear indication that they're taking this seriously," he said. "And the fact that they're stockpiling many of the items that would be particularly important to first responders and health-care workers and other safety stuff."
The governor cautioned that information is changing and officials and medical personnel are adapting to what Sudder described as a "dynamic and evolving situation."
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BRO MX Ordered to Comply With Conservation Restrictions
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission gave BRO MX until July 28 to place signage marking conservation-restricted area they improperly mowed as well as hire a botanist to review the area.
The commission on Thursday went over some conservation restrictions included in the deed of motocross track owners Jason and Jessica Langenback that they unknowingly violated.
"The reason why you are on the agenda is that there have been suggested anomalies of the management and the use of the conversation restriction … wetlands encroachment and things along those lines," Chairman Andrew J. Kawczak said. "So I am hoping … this gets the conversation started."
Specifically, the restrictions control mowing in a meadowed area as there are endangered insects and plants.