Cape Lawmakers Urge Governor to Send Coronavirus Help to Cape and Islands | WCAI

Cape Lawmakers Urge Governor to Send Coronavirus Help to Cape and Islands

Mar 24, 2020

State Senator Julian Cyr
Credit malegislature.gov/legislators/profile/jac0

Lawmakers have been busy on Beacon Hill, moving legislation aimed at addressing the impacts of the coronavirus epidemic. That includes a bill allowing towns and cities to postpone town meetings, elections and other events that would force people to gather in large numbers. Senator Julian Cyr of Truro is on the state's COVID-19 working group, a body that's looking into other measures that might need to be taken to stem the crisis.

WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Cyr for more about what the task force is working on. 

Eident Good morning, Julian. Thanks for talking with us.

Cyr Good morning, Kathryn.

Eident So do you—go ahead, Senator. Go ahead.

Cyr You know, we're just confronting a myriad of challenges in state government. You know, this is a public health emergency first and foremost. And, we really know that we're in it for the long haul; particularly given the real dire consequences this means for our economy.

Eident Yeah, absolutely. Tell us a little bit more about what the task force is doing; who is on it. And you know, there's so many things, I imagine, that are fighting for your priority.

Cyr Yes. So, it's certainly a lot of conference calls because, of course, we in the Senate and the legislature are trying to do our best to observe social distancing and understand that, you know, as lawmakers, we come into contact a lot of people. So, we can be really efficient vectors for the virus.

So, the Senate has been working aggressively for nearly two weeks with a working group. I'm a member of that working group, its head. It's helmed by my colleague, Jo Comerford, who's a state senator from the North Hampton area. She chairs the public health committee.

So, we've divvied up area issues. I've been taking the lead on challenges and issues for older adults. And that's everything from personal protective equipment, or PPE, which is some lingo we're learning, and making sure that we have PPE and nursing homes and also for home visits. So, there's a lot of home care that happens for older adults. Food access, child care is something we've been really concerned about. If health care workers can't find child care for their own children, then they can't go into work. So we've been looking at that; I've been looking at that.

But, we meet every morning at 8 a.m. We have a conference call and there's eight senators who just look at every single issue we can, and then elevate up through Senator Comerford to the Senate President. We're working very closely with the administration. Secretary Marylou Sudders is our command central for the administration. I'm fortunate to have a great working relationship with her staff and we've been really able to identify a myriad of challenges.

But they but they come in, you know, day by day. And, you've got to triage them. Certainly, it's a public health emergency, first and foremost, that we're trying to keep health first of mind.

Eident Right, with the economy, of course, roaring along right behind it. Senator, you co-signed a letter with State Representative Dylan Fernandez calling on the governor to maybe explore the idea of restricting travel or helping out the islands a little more. We now know that, obviously, the governor has put more restrictions in order statewide with closing non-essential businesses, but travel to the islands is still allowed. And there's the National Guard that's been activated. Is there a push to try to get more help to the islands still now even with these newest restrictions and orders in place?

Cyr Yes. We're very concerned about the islands. I'm also concerned about the Outer Cape. These are communities that are very, very limited from a health care resource perspective.

And actually, I think that a lot of the damage has been done in the sense that people have come here—I understand why people want to come here to ride this out on the islands out on the Cape. But I think they need to know is how limited our health resources are, particularly this time of year.

This morning, there's going to be a letter going for myself, and Representative Fernandez, who's been a key partner in all of this, including all the town managers and the heads of both hospitals on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, officially requesting National Guard deployment to both islands, particularly to help manage needs and security at the hospitals, looking at if and when we do have a surge, how do we how do we create more beds? They're very, very limited resources.

But what I think listeners need to know is, if you're here or if you're thinking of coming here, you need to know how fragile the health resources that we have are and how vulnerable our population is.

You know, I get that people want to come here, but right now, I think we're trying to potentially respond to the facts that are on the ground that we've seen an uptick in in our population on both islands and on Cape Cod. And that is going to mean a strain in our health care system in the coming days and several weeks as we're seeing an uptick in cases and particularly people who need hospitalization. But, if you're someone particularly who's in a high-risk group, you should think twice about being here.

Eident Mm hmm. Well, you've got a lot--

Cyr  I know. I know that’s hard to say, but I think we just be really honest about, you know, about what's at stake.

Eident Yes. And you've got a lot of work ahead of you. It sounds like you are busy and you are keeping an eye on many things. And thank you for taking some time out of your busy morning, Senator Julian Cyr, to talk with us. We appreciate it.

Cyr My pleasure. Stay safe, Kathryn.

Eident You, too.

This transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.