May 3, 2020
Municipal Leader COVID-19 Update #6
Timely updates on the public health crisis for Boards of Health, Selectboards, Town Administrators, First Responders and Emergency Managers.
FRCOG’s sixth COVID-19 municipal leader bulletin is being distributed two months after the first case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. There is good evidence that the measures taken by our residents are beginning to pay off, but enormous challenges continue to face our nation, state and region.
 

Helpful Links:
  • For the latest Franklin County MACC situation report click here
  • For the latest COVID Command Center situation reports click here
  • For the COG’s COVID Municipal Resources Page click here.
  • For the Region 1 Health and Medical Coordinating Coalition, click here
Message from the MAPHCO Joint Information System:

Boards of Health interested in sharing information with residents can find a Word version of the MAPHCO weekly tips for communication here . Additional messages for the public this week include one on contact tracing, another on remaining patient with physical distancing, and the importance of continuing to seek treatment for major health issues during the pandemic.

Stay at Home Advisory and Nonessential Business Closures Extended
Governor Baker’s emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID19 Essential Services” to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public is extended until May 18th. This order also extends the existing ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 18 th .  Governor Baker also announced that the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) stay-at-home advisory will remain in effect. Residents are strongly urged to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID19 should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible.

As of April 30, Franklin County is third lowest in case counts in the Commonwealth, with only Dukes County and Nantucket having lower case counts. Your physical distancing efforts are making a difference in keeping yourself and your neighbors healthy! Please stay patient, and keep it up!

Read more about the Stay-At-Home Advisory and more about essential business and services .


  TOWN ELECTIONS AND ANNUAL TOWN MEETINGS
Town Clerks, Moderators, and Boards of Health have been thinking about how to safely hold town elections and town meetings and have reached out to the FRCOG to see if there is clear guidance on either. As you already know, legislation has passed that allows Annual Town Meetings to occur after June 30 th and that allows towns to deficit spend/create 1/12 budgets until a FY21 budget can be fully vetted and approved. Refer to this link for more. There is pending legislation that would provide further guidance, clarification and flexibility on the holding of Town Meetings. If and when that legislation passes, we will be sure to notify all municipal officials. It is our current understanding that the Secretary of State intends to issue clear guidance on holding town elections in the coming week.  
EXECUTIVE ORDER /LEGISLATIVE UPDATES:

Re-Opening Board
The Massachusetts Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC) has representation on the Governor’s new Re-Opening Board. If your community has suggestions/concerns, please send them to Linda Dunlavy, Chair of the RPAC, to pass on.

Facial Covering Order
Effective Wednesday, May 6, 2020, Governor Baker issued an Order requiring face masks or cloth face coverings in public places where social distancing is not possible. This applies to both indoor and outdoor spaces. Exceptions include children under the age of 2 and those unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition. Full details are outlined in the  May 1 Order and at mass.gov/coveryourface. Concerned that you may not have a face mask? You don’t need one! Watch a video describing all the alternatives here .

New Procedures for Farmers Markets
Just in time for the traditional May 1 start of Farmers Market season in our region, the Departments of Public Health and Agricultural Resources released new orders and guidance for Farmers Markets, Farm Stands, and CSAs. They lay out the necessary physical distancing and hygiene practices required at each. Farm stands are encouraged to pre-bag their products and limit cash transactions, but the changes for Farmers Markets are extensive. Note that unlike many food borne viruses, Coronavirus causes respiratory illness. Food borne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission, so the main concern in agricultural sales is the behavior of the people involved. Read more here:
·   DPH emergency order for farmers markets, farm stands, and Community
Supported Agriculture (CSA)
·   MDAR guidance on farmers markets, farm stands, and CSAs
 
MACC UPDATE: COVID IN FRANKLIN COUNTY

FRCOG’s Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC) issues weekly reports on Thursdays that provide a common operating picture to all responding to COVID-19 in Franklin County. To read past reports and view the COVID-19 Data Dashboard, click here . This week the MACC reported that the peak appears to be behind us, and Franklin County’s healthcare stakeholders are seeing a plateau of cases. Many communities are doing extensive risk communication work and working to increase access to masks and other PPE as we anticipate an eventual re-opening. 

MUNICIPAL FINANCE UPDATE
Last week, Sean Cronin, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Revenue and Director of the Division of Local Services DLS provided a Municipal Finance Update. He focused on Chapters 53 and 56 of the Acts of 2020, as well as the federal CARES act. Summaries of Chapters 53 and 56 and other useful COVID-19 information for municipalities are available on the DLS website ( https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-resources-and-guidance-for-municipal-officials#legislation-and-emergency-actions ).

The federal CARES Act is providing approximately $2.7 billion to MA. A&F will issue guidance for cities and towns on how to access some of that money to help pay for COVID-19 expenses incurred between 3/10/20 and 12/31/20. CARES Act funding cannot be used to make up for local revenue loss or to supplant already-budgeted expenses.

Contact Sean ( croninse@dor.state.ma.us ) with specific questions about the local impact of Chapters 53 and 56, or with additional thoughts and ideas for the state to consider for providing further municipal relief through this emergency. Another opportunity for town administrators, through the Small Town Administrators of Massachusetts (STAM), to talk with Sean is scheduled for Tuesday, May 5 th .  

NEW GRANTS FOR FIREFIGHTERS
FEMA has just released the following opportunities under the Aid to Firefighters Grant program:
  • FY 2020 COVID 19 - Supplemental (AFG-S): will close on Friday, May 15, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • FY 2019 SAFER: will close on Friday, May 15, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • FY 2019 FP&S: will close on Friday, May 29, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Review the grant program's Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) at the AFG website

COOPERATIVE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE
HEALTH DISTRICT UPDATE
As of Thursday, April 30, CPHS Member towns have had a total of 36 cases since the pandemic began and 18 people have recovered from the disease. 26 people are currently either isolated because of a COVID diagnosis or quarantined because of exposure to someone with a diagnosis.     Our public health nurses continue to be busy identifying patients and their contacts and supporting them in staying safely at home. The nurses have sent a few trial COVID-19 cases to the state’s new contact tracing collaborative, and have developed a relationship with the team serving Franklin and Hampshire Counties.

Title 5 season has started back up, and the Health Agents are busy with this important water-protection work, as well as providing a great deal of technical assistance to businesses in understanding the constantly evolving state orders around essential businesses. The district staff will be distributing face-covering posters Monday and Tuesday in time for the 5/6 deadline to wear them (see image above). Our grateful thanks to graphic designer Kat Woods for donating the design of the posters for us.

More Resources to Share with Your Residents
Resources for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19:
While the health crisis is a major challenge to Franklin County, the economic impacts of this outbreak are also already severe. Click here to learn more about resources for businesses.

Help for Families
This is a particularly difficult time for many people in our region, with the stressors of unemployment, school cancellation, and social distancing piling up. Some important resources you can share with residents include:

  • The Greenfield Safe Schools Safe Streets Coalition (4SC) and Gill-Montague Community School Partnership have shared resources for families, including a new weekly newsletter for parents.


To read the FRCOG’s previous Municipal Leader COVID-19 updates: