Coronavirus Coverage: The First Four Days
Continuing coverage of coronavirus impact on Cape Cod.
Here you'll find our latest updates.
Going forward, our local coronavirus coverage will be presented in individual stories. You can view all our coronavirus coverage here.
11:00pm, Monday, March 16, 2020
A drive-through coronavirus testing site is coming to Cape Cod Community College. It will begin operation tomorrow.
Cape Cod Healthcare announced the site, which is a collaboration with the county, on a media call this afternoon.
People with symptoms may be referred to the site by their primary care physician. Only those with a referral will be tested.
There will be no cost for the test.
The test site will be operating from 8am to 6pm, 7 days a week. Another site may be opened on the Cape if needed, and if testing supplies are available.
People with a referral will drive into the Community College testing site and present their ID with their car windows rolled up. When testers verify they have an appointment, a nasal swab will be administered
The swab will be sent for testing at either the state lab or a private lab.
Results will be delivered to the patient by the Department of Health.
Patients in need of immediate care will be directed to emergency intakes at the Cape’s hospitals.
Tents will be set up outside Falmouth Hospital and Cape Cod Hospital for triaging patients with flu-like symptoms. These are to prevent people with possible contagion from entering the hospital inappropriately. Patients in need of care will be admitted through these tents into the hospital.
Cape Cod Healthcare is stressing that people need to have symptoms and a physician’s order to be tested at the official testing site at the Community College.
Barnstable County Confirmed Case Rattling School Community
Barnstable School Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown told WCAI that a staff member at Barnstable Community Innovation School has tested positive. This is the spouse of the Sandwich man who was previously identified as the first COVID-19 case in Barntsable County.
Mayo-Brown said a couple of other people in the school community are not feeling well and have contacted their doctors.
But she said the good news is that if no one else gets sick, the quarantine ends on Friday.
“Basically, because of the testing, everyone needs to stay quarantined until March 20th, because the last day that the staff member was present in the school was March 6th,” said Mayo-Brown. “And if during that time any of them experience the symptoms, they need to contact their primary care physician.”
Mayo-Brown said she wants to clear up some confusion about which school is affected: It’s the K-3 school, not the intermediate school, which has similar initials.
“There’s certainly a range of emotions,” Mayo Brown said. “It’s clear that people are frightened or anxious. Some people are sort of saying, ‘Well, it was inevitable. We knew it was probably going to be the case.’ I think it’s just sort of a wait-and-see at this point.”
State Lawmakers Take on Legislation to Address Impacts to Businesses and Employees
Massachusetts will make $10 million dollar worth of small businesses loans available to businesses adversely effected by the unprecedented emergency measures implemented state-wide to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Loans of up to $75,000 dollars are available to Bay State-based businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees. No repayments are required for the first six months on the 36-month loan.
Senate President Karen Spilka said the Legislature plans similar programs to respond to aid businesses and workers.
"The health and wellness and safety of the residents and our communities, helping businesses, helping employees," Spilka said. "That is our priority right now. And that is what we are discussing and working."
The loan program comes after the governor banned gatherings of over 25 people and forced restaurants to switch to take-out-only. Baker says it's part of the state's responsibility to businesses while everyone adjusts to the crisis.
"It is certainly tremendously disruptive to our daily lives," Baker said. "Whether your kids are home from school or you're going to miss grabbing a meal, your favorite neighborhood restaurant this weekend, we're all adjusting to these circumstances."
Baker also delivered a package of bills he wants lawmakers to pass to support workers, including expanded unemployment eligibility and waiving the one-week waiting period for benefits.
— updated 11:00pm, Monday, March 16, 2020
Communities Mobilize to Assist as Schools Close and Many Face Uncertain Employment
12:55pm, Monday, March 16, 2020—As the first full day without school for many students and parents passes, efforts are under way to insure that children and families can still access breakfasts, lunches, and other meals. Barnstable is offering free take-away breakfast and lunch to students under 18 from any town—not just Barnstable.
Food will be available weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at four locations: Barnstable Intermediate School, Barnstable United Elementary School, Hyannis West Elementary School and Hyannis Youth and Community Center.
As of about 12:40 on Monday, an employee at Barnstable Intermediate School said about 40 bagged lunches had been picked up, out of preparations for 150. Schools says they expect those numbers will grow in the coming days.
Businesses in communities have also stepped forward to help families. Marshland Restaurant locations in Plymouth and Sandwich have begun offering a school style breakfast for $2.50 and a school style lunch for $3.00 to all students. No other purchase is required, and no student ID is required. On Monday morning employees formed an assembly line to put together the meals.
Nantucket Officials Voice Concern
Hospital officials on Nantucket fear that summer residents are flocking to the island early to get away from the coronavirus, but may only be bringing the virus with them.
Hospital President and CEO Gary Shaw says the hospital has no Intensive Care Unit beds and not enough respirators to take care of all the people that could end up at the hospital.
"Once that capacity exceeds the options available, well, it’s a triage option based on how ill you become, what type of support you need, whether we think we can hold you here while we are waiting to get you to a bed. So you see our dilemma: if we start being flooded, we currently would overwhelm our emergency room very quickly.”
Shaw says that the hospital will create a drive-up window where patients can discuss their symptoms.
But the hospital president urged the community to shut down workplaces, group gatherings and public events, and to stay away from each other as much as possible.
Jason Graziadei, also with Nantucket Cottage Hospital, says the island isn't prepared to accomodate so many people outside of the traditional tourist season.
"We're remote, and we have limited resources," Graziadei said. "So we're really trying to get that message out. And certainly, more people coming from all over the country or the world here is probably not advisable, given the resources that our local public health, police, fire and hospital have at this time of year."
Graziadei says there is concern that not only could the Island's resources be overwhelmed, but visitors may bring the virus with them.
6:15pm, Sunday, March 15, 2020—Governor Baker has ordered all Massachusetts schools, public and private, to close for 3 weeks, until April 7. The order also prohibits large gatherings and closes restaurants and bars to seated serving.
Restaurants in Massachusetts will only be allowed to offer take-out, and all other public spaces like theaters and gyms will be limited to 25 people, all in an aggressive new effort to combat COVID-19.
Gov. Baker says the order goes into effect Tuesday, March 17th, and will run until April 7.
"I'm ordering that any restaurant, bar or establishment that offers food or drink shall not permit on-premises consumption," Baker said, making the announcement. "These establishments may continue to offer food for takeout and for delivery."
The order to decrease the 250-person limit to just 25 comes after a weekend that saw crowds gather at Boston-area bars and restaurants as well as an increase in new cases of coronavirus infection.
Baker says it's time to get more aggressive, limiting people's public interactions, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and health professionals brace for a wave of infections.
The goal, said the Governor, is to "change the nature of the way we handle what we would describe as non-essential activities, and then work real hard with the data, and with the folks at the Department of Public Health and our colleagues in the health care community, to ensure we have the right capacity to deal with this."
Questions about transit
Not clarified in Gov. Baker's order was how it will impact transit agencies, which bring together groups of more than 25 on buses, ferries, and other conveyances, and also provide food service to travelers.
The Steamship Authority issued this statement on Sunday night:
- Gov. Charlie Baker’s March 15, 2020 order, “Prohibiting Gatherings of More than 25 People and On-Premises Consumption of Food and Drink,” does not mention transit agencies in its limitation of the number of people who can gather in one place. We will inquire with the state on Monday as to the applicability of the order to concessions operations on board our vessels as well as any other new guidance that may have been issued by the state at that time.
- We ask our customers to maintain precautionary measures, such as frequent hand washing and maintaining “social distance,” while on board Authority vessels and buses.
1:15pm, Sunday, March 15, 2020—Cape Cod Healthcare has announced it will be allowing no patient visitation at any of its locations, until further notice. An email from Michael Lauf, President and CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare, said the restrictions will apply to both Cape hospitals, as well as nursing and cancer treatment facilities, with this proviso: "Exceptions will be made for end of life, maternity deliveries, and one parent or legal guardian per minor child who is a patient. The intent of these revisions is to protect the health and safety of our patients, staff, and physicians."
11:30am, Sunday, March 15, 2020—Officials in Easton have announced that the confirmed coronavirus case from Bristol County is a resident of the town. A posting on the town website says town officials were notified by the state's Department of Public Health. It reads in part: "The resident, who is presumptive positive, and all household members, who are not currently symptomatic, are adhering to DPH orders for isolation and quarantine to limit the risk of spread and will be monitored by Easton Health officials on a daily basis. In order to protect the resident’s medical privacy rights, no additional information can be disclosed."
10:56pm, Saturday, March 14, 2020—Barnstable Community Innovation School has notified members of its school community that the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the county is the spouse of a staff member. The patient has earlier been identified as a man in his 60s from Sandwich.
A posting on the school Facebook page states that the staff member is currently symptomatic and in self-quarantine, and is undergoing testing.
The school is advising that all staff and students quarantine for at least the next few days, while awaiting results of the test. Anyone who presents symptoms should contact their primary care physician.
According to the post, the staff member's last day of work was Friday, March 6.
The Facebook post is a letter to the school community signed by Dr. Meg Mayo-Brown, Barnstable Public Schools Superintendent.
9:23pm, Saturday, March 14, 2020—The Town of Sandwich has learned that the confirmed Barnstable County case is a resident of the town, an adult male in his 60s. In a statement on its website, the Town says that it followed required public health protocols and notified all direct contacts of the man.
Lower Cape joins school closings
Monomoy and Nauset schools have both announced they will be closing for at least two weeks, following the lead of every other school in the region.
Dr Scott Carpenter, Superintendent of Monomoy Regional School, posted a message to the district website, which reads in part: "Our plan has been to stay open until the Cape saw the first case of COVID-19, using every precious moment to help our staff, students, parents, and community transition to a prolonged remote operation of our schools. A confirmed case of COVID-19 on the Cape today and reports from our Boards of Health now find Monomoy and the Lower Cape closing schools effective Monday, March 16."
Nauset Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Conrad notes on the district website that "the closure is likely to be extended through April vacation, dependent upon how the situation evolves."
5:29pm, Saturday, March 14, 2020—A coronavirus case has been confirmed in Bristol County. This comes after the confirmation, earlier in the day (see below), of a patient with COVID-19 in Barnstable County.
The Bristol case became known in the daily update from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, issued this afternoon. Further details are not yet available.
5:29pm, Saturday, March 14, 2020—Nantucket Public Schools now have announced that schools will be closed for the next two weeks, with an anticipated return on March 30. In a statement on the district website, Superintendent Michael Cozort says, "Although we have not had a confirmed case of the virus on Nantucket, we believe that it is likely that there are members of our community who have been infected and it will be a matter of time before 'community spread' happens and our number of cases begin to rise."
12:52pm, Saturday, March 14, 2020—Cape Cod Healthcare has confirmed the first positive case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Barnstable county. According to an emailed statement:
- On March 13, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed the first positive case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Barnstable county. The patient was admitted to a Cape Cod Healthcare hospital with respiratory symptoms. The patient was screened following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) screening criteria. Cape Cod Healthcare consulted with the DPH which approved the patient for COVID-19 testing. The test result was reported positive approximately 24 hours later.
No further details are available at this time.
9:00am, Saturday, March 14, 2020—The new coronavirus can live on surfaces for 2 to 3 days. Yikes! Now here's the good news: old fashioned soap and water are effective in cleaning surfaces, according to infectious disease experts. NPR has a good article on a new study about how long the virus can survive on things like plastic and stainless steel, and some great tips for cleaning surfaces.
8:30am, Saturday, March 14, 2020—Wareham Public Schools will be closed for one week beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. In a statement, Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said a determination if the schools will remain closed for an additional period of time will be made by next Friday, March 20th. A meal distribution service is being instated for students, with meal pickups available at 9 different sites. More information here.
4:30pm, Friday, March 13, 2020—Barnstable, Falmouth, Sandwich, Mashpee, Upper Tech and Martha's Vineyard schools have all announced they will be closing for two weeks, until March 30. New Bedford Schools will be closed until at least March 23. Right now, Lower Cape schools will remain open, and Nantucket has not made an announcement.
The announcement from the Falmouth School District states: "As we near the end of the expected closure, we will assess the need to extend it. The purpose of this closure is to allow for the preventative action of social distancing. All students and staff are strongly encouraged to remain home and avoid unnecessary travel."
Monomoy Regional School District Superintendent Scott Carpenter says that, as of now, Monomoy will be open Monday. He plans to re-evaluate the situation on a daily basis using the CDC guidance for school closings.
"Given what we’re seeing out there beyond the Cape bridges," Carpenter said, "we do acknowledge that it’s a matter of time before COVID-19 shows up on what I refer to as, 'our side of the Bass River.'"
Houses of worship
Some local houses of worship are cancelling services to reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus.
Rabbi Elias Lieberman says the Falmouth Jewish Congregation has canceled all activities through the end of the month.
"People understand the importance of doing this social distancing, which is what’s being recommended," Lieberman said. "And we all want to feel that we’re doing our part as part of a broader community."
St. Lawrence Martyr Church in New Bedford is one of several considering options for online worship services. Administrator Melissa Kucharski said, "We are looking into a live streaming company so that we can live stream our masses in the event that we have to close, and currently we are still having our normal services."
Massachusetts State of Emergency
As part of the state of emergency, Gov. Charlie Baker is banning most public gatherings in Massachusetts of more than 250 people, including religious services.
Baker's emergency order bans community, civic, faith-based, sports and concert events.
"This order does not apply to the normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers, polling locations, grocery or retail stores or other spaces where 250 more persons may be in transit," Baker said.
Aside from those exceptions, and others like offices and restaurants, hosting any event that would have over 250 people in a single space - like a stadium, church or temple, ballroom, theater or even outdoor space - is off limits until further notice.
1pm, Friday, March 13, 2020—Gov. Baker in a press conference today reiterated that he would like to see the federal government moving faster in its response to the coronavirus.
The state is dependent on the federal government for test kits, he said, and for any expansion of allowed testing facilities. Currently, all tests must be processed solely at the state lab. He specifically cited MGH, Beth Israel, and Brigham and Women's as hospitals with labs that could be put to service in testing for the new coronavirus, if the federal government would give permission.
Baker also stressed the need for people to avoid large gatherings, but said he does not plan to issue a shelter-in-place order. The state may consider tapping its rainy day fund to address the economic impacts of the virus, he said.
The state currently plans to issue a weekly update on the number of cases tested in Massachusetts, releasing those figures every Wednesday, beginning March 18.
12:15pm, Friday, March 13, 2020—As of noon today, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus on the Cape, the South Coast or the Islands, but hospitals across the region are preparing for the possibility of an influx of patients.
Dr. David Pombo, medical director for infection prevention at Cape Cod Healthcare, says officials are considering sequestering patients with COVID-19 in specific areas within Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital.
“We’re establishing whether we can convert rooms for patients with similar respiratory diseases to be cohorted,” Pombo said on a weekly press call on Thursday. “There’s a whole supply chain to make sure protective equipment is available.”
Pombo says people who think they may be ill with coronavirus should call their primary care physician before arriving at a doctor’s office or the hospital.
“The symptoms that are concerning are fever, cough, difficulty breathing,” he said. “If those are present, people may need medical evaluation, but with no high fever or difficulty breathing they should probably stay home from work.”
Cape Cod Healthcare and nursing homes across the region are restricting visitors, and health officials are checking those who do arrive for any signs of illness.
Meanwhile, some businesses are asking employees to work from home. Most town meetings, religious services and arts events are also being canceled or postponed. Cape Cod Community College has begun to move classes online.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell declared a state of emergency Friday, as well. “This allows for the suspension of certain rules to expedite the procurement of goods and services, as well as allowing the mayor to take reasonable steps to ensure public safety,” said a statement from Mitchell’s office.
The city has ordered postponed or cancelled all public events greater than 100 people. That includes Mitchell’s state-of-the-city address, which will be postponed to a later date.
As of Monday, all senior centers will be closed, and department heads are being advised to allow employees to work from home.
On the state level, there are now 108 confirmed and presumed cases across Massachusetts.
Governor Charlie Baker, speaking at a press conference in Pittsfield Thursday, said he expects the number to rise, in part because the state now has more test kits available.
State public health officials say they now have the capacity to test 200 people per day, with a new influx of 5,000 testing kits from the federal government. All testing is being completed through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
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