Western MA COVID-19 Data
Check out the latest Western Massachusetts COVID-19 Data Dashboard update, and please join PHIWM and Representative Mindy Domb on September 18th to learn more about the dashboard. The Dashboard is designed to present COVID-19 data in a way that is accessible to decision-makers and the public in our region. Access to up-to-date COVID-19 data is critical to inform communities, schools, businesses, legislators, governments, health departments and organizations to take action to meet the needs of the communities they serve while maintaining safety. Local data is particularly needed given the unique mix of rural, suburban and urban communities here. 
Dr. Kathleen Szegda, PHIWM’s Director of Community Research and Evaluation will present the Dashboard. A panel including Representative Mindy Domb from Amherst and regional public health experts will discuss how they are using COVID-19 data to inform decisions and challenges. 
Join us via Zoom!
Friday, September 18, 2020, 12-1 PM
Back to School Amid COVID-19
The back-to-school season is hectic enough, let alone in the midst of a pandemic. Families, school administrators, and policy makers alike are looking to data to help inform decisions around school reopening. But even with data, the decision to return to school (or work) in-person is extremely complex. 

As of August 18th, most schools were planning a hybrid or fully-remote approach. In mid-August Education Commissioner Riley and the Department of Education and Secondary Education released Guidance for Districts and Schools about using MA Department of Public Health COVID-19 Metrics to determine whether learning should be in-person, remote, or a hybrid approach. 

Interpreting and making decisions based on COVID-19 data is not clear cut. Rates may change day to day; regional school districts draw from multiple communities which may be varying risk levels; and in smaller communities, a handful of cases may make the difference between a community being deemed low-risk and high-risk. Personal circumstances, like the health condition of you or family members, may also factor into your decision making. It can be difficult to weigh the benefits (social emotional health of students, access to special services, etc.) and risks of attending school in-person. It is very confusing, complex, and personal. 

We’ve compiled some events and resources that we hope you find helpful as you navigate this confusing and uncertain time:
  • Surviving the Pandemic- Creating a New Normal, Sept 17th at 12:00pm: Are you concerned about how the pandemic is affecting your family’s social and emotional well-being? Learn how to support your children and yourself during these difficult times. Join the Support Network for a conversation with Karen Zilberstein, LICSW. RSVP to Margery Jess or to Gretchen Emond .
  • Return to School Safely, Together: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has launched a new website with information about returning to school safely. Additionally, they are launching a public awareness campaign to promote health and safety as the new school year starts. The campaign will include ads on TV, radio, and on public transit
  • Public Health Guidance for Reopening SchoolsThe Yale School of Public Health and Yale University’s Office of Facilities has compiled information as a public service to inform and guide school officials, parents and community leaders during this process. A combination of both school-initiated precautions (e.g. administrative controls to identify and isolate cases) and individual actions is necessary to reduce disease transmission (e.g. masks, hand washing).
Upcoming Events & Virtual Learning
Learn and engage from the comfort of your home. Check out these upcoming events and learning opportunities:
  • TODAY! Global Experts Discuss Peace, Power and Prosperity for Women and Girls, September 11th at 3:00pm: The Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts, in partnership with Berkshire Community College, will host a virtual event featuring global experts, who will discuss peace, power and prosperity for women and girls globally and locally. The speakers include Kathleen Szegda, the Director of Community Research and Evaluation at the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. Tickets

  • Financial Literacy 101, starting September 16th at 6:30pm: In this free four-week virtual workshop, sponsored by Hispanic-American Library, Inc., attendees will learn how to budget, manage their debt, understand their credit report, and build their credit score. The workshop will take place on September 16th, 23rd, 30th and October 7th from 6:30-7:30pm. Register by email.

Learn more about other Financial Literacy classes in the region.

  • Calling In Not Calling Out, September 23rd at 12:00pm: The UMass School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS) and the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network, in partnership with the New England Public Health Training Center, welcome Loretta Ross, activist and co-founder of the Reproductive Justice Movement, for a conversation on human rights and public health, reproductive health justice, and white supremacy. This webinar is the first in a series about health equity. Learn more and register here.
  • Including Older Adults & People with Disabilities in Transportation Planning: Missed the live event on July 23? No problem. Check out the recording to learn about engaging older adults and people with disabilities in transportation planning. Including case studies from 3 communities. Presenters included Samantha Hamilton, LiveWell Springfield Manager, and Winston Smith, Resident Advocate.
Advocacy and Education
Springfield Demonstration Calls for End to Biomass Proposal
Samantha Hamilton, Live Well Springfield manager, spoke at a rally in opposition to new state climate legislation that includes a provision that will create new incentives for biomass incinerators. PHIWM has long advocated against the biomass incinerator proposed for Springfield because of the impact that will have on an already burdened community that is the "asthma capital" of the US. 

Past PVAC/PHIWM Testimony against Biomass:
Rental, Utility or Mortgage Assistance During COVID-19
If you or someone you know is a Hampden or Hampshire county resident struggling with rental, utility, or mortgage arrears as a result of COVID-19 related income loss, Way Finders may be able to provide financial assistance. Program guidelines and requirements are flexible for individuals and families experiencing a COVID-19 related housing crisis. Complete an assessment online or contact 413-233-1600 to complete an assessment over the phone.

For assistance in Berkshire or Franklin Counties, please visit the websites below: