Board of Health Hard at Work to Mitigate Spread of Covid-19

Director of Health and Human Services Heidi Porter presented her department’s wide-ranging responses to the Covid-19 pandemic at the April 13 meeting of the Board of Health. The Board unanimously approved an amendment to the Town’s Declaration of Public Health Emergency to include regulatory citations as recommended by Town Counsel. Sarah Thompson was elected Board chair with Anita Raj as Vice-Chair.

Director’s Report and Covid-19 Response Update

Director Porter reviewed measures that the town is taking to mitigate residents’ risk to Covid-19.

Since Governor Baker announced updated guidance for grocery stores, the Town worked with retailers on the updated guidelines including limiting occupancy to 40 percent of normal capacity. Grocery stores have also implemented plexiglass barriers between employees and the public, social distancing signs, and other preventive measures to protect shoppers and employees.

Assistant Health Director Katherine Dagle noted that all retailers who sell food are considered grocery stores, including pharmacies and gas stations.

Dagle also highlighted that some grocery stores are requiring employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), while others have left the utilization of PPE to the individual. Grocery stores, as well as other essential businesses, have been recommending employees to wash their hands frequently. At gas stations, the town has helped hang signs to remind people to wash hands or use hand sanitizer after touching the gas pump.

Porter also spoke about the interest in facial coverings expressed by essential employees at retail stores. Dagle mentioned one grocery store which requires both their employees and the public to wear masks. Porter highlighted that wearing a mask is not about protecting yourself, but rather protecting others. She also stressed the importance of staying hopeful, if possible.

The Board discussed the further release of data about the number of Covid-19 cases in Bedford.  A question arose over the total number of Covid-19 cases. As currently reported, the number includes Bedford residents, as well as Hanscom AF base residents, and the Bedford Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus residents. The Board, along with Porter, agreed to continue the practice of not revealing the location of Covid-19 cases, as the identity of individuals must remain confidential. But Porter agreed to try separating the total number of cases at the VA from the total.

Porter provided an update on the food pantry that the town began at the beginning of the crisis. The food pantry is providing roughly 400 bags of food to families each week. Many town employees volunteer to help with the bagging. The Town is partnering with the Greater Boston Food Bank, which is providing fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to other foods.

Dagle spoke on the Town’s communication with local hotels so that long-term residents would not be evicted and thus become homeless, which the town deemed detrimental to the public, as well as to the residents’ well-being. She noted that the Lexington Aloft hotel is being used as a regional quarantine site to host confirmed Covid-19 patients.

 

 


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