Boston Strong news Boston, MA: Office of the Gov reports 3.12.2020.

Today the Baker-Polito Administration released new policies  to further protect individuals served in community-based and congregate care settings from respiratory illnesses, including Coronavirus (COVID-19). The new guidance is for Assisted Living Residences, Congregate Care Settings, In-Home Caregivers and Workers (Agency Based and Non-Agency Based), and Community Day Program Settings. This follows Governor Charlie Baker’s Tuesday declaration of a State of Emergency in Massachusetts that was ratified by the Public Health Council on Wednesday as a public health emergency.

“Everyone has a role to play to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts, and it’s particularly important that we take precautions to keep older adults and those with health conditions safe,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This new guidance is critical to protecting residents served by community-based providers and other caregivers and those at assisted living residences from COVID-19 and we appreciate the public’s willingness to observe these important rules for the foreseeable future.” 

“In Massachusetts we have a strong  system of community-based health and human service  providers. Recognizing that these services are vital for the residents they serve, we acted to develop guidance that will help organizations protect their employees, and to protect Massachusetts residents,” said Secretary Marylou Sudders.

Earlier today, Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH signed a public health order requiring the restriction of visitation at Assisted Living Residences.

The guidance released today  for Assisted Living Residences, as well as Congregate Care SettingsIn-Home Caregivers and Workers (Agency Based and Non-Agency Based), and Community Day Program Settings, is based on what is currently known about the transmission and severity of COVID-19. As each industry group faces specific challenges associated with implementation based on its population and organizational needs, these guidelines have been tailored accordingly.

With today’s release, the organizations and institutions are receiving specific guidance that addresses their industry’s unique programming and services. All of these groups are strongly urged to follow core guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in these settings:

  • Screen employees, vendors, and clients for sickness with fever, new respiratory illness, recent international travel, and close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
  • Prepare and educate individuals with updated guidance and policies.
  • Avoid unnecessary out of state or international travel and avoid large gatherings or crowds, and reinforce the practice of good hygiene with staff, vendors, and clients.

Yesterday, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services released updated guidance for long term care facility policies to protect older adults at higher risk. The guidance was updated following an order by the Commissioner of Public Health requiring all facilities – nursing and rest homes – to actively screen all visitors and to take measures to restrict visitors under certain circumstances under her authority during this public health emergency.

In addition to specific policies for long term care facilities and other community-based providers, earlier this week, the Administration updated its guidance to the general public, specifically urging older adults and those with health issues to avoid large crowds and events. Individuals who live in households with vulnerable people, like elderly parents, should also consider avoiding crowds to mitigate risk. This guidance is posted on the Department of Public Health’s website,  

The public is reminded of steps to take to limit the spread of COVID-19:

  • Cover your mouth – when you cough or sneeze use a tissue or your inner elbow, not your hands
  • Wash your hands – with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based sanitizing gel
  • Stay home if you are sick – and avoid close contact with others

 The Administration will continue to update the public on further developments and individuals are encouraged to consult both the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for the most up to date information.