Town of Rockport COVID-19 Update 3/30/2020

COVID-19 Update
Town Seal

3/30/2020:

Some helpful information on several topics:

-Commonwealth of MA COVID-19 website: mass.gov/covid19

-The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has established a new COVID-19 symptom checker system in partnership with Buoy Health. Please visit: www.buoy.com/mass to utilize the system.

-For those who have seen their employment or business impacted by COVID-19, please see the link below for detailed information from the Dept. of Unemployment Assistance. The DUA continues to update the information regularly and many claims are eligible for expeditious processing.  Please visit this website: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-covid-19-unemployment-in...

-Pursuant to the Governor's order: "Beginning March 27, all travelers arriving to Massachusetts are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days. This guidance will be displayed as posters at service plazas along 1-90 eastbound, distributed as flyers at major transportation hubs and on posted on highway message boards. Visitors are instructed not to travel to Massachusetts if they are displaying symptoms. Health care workers, public health workers, public safety workers, transportation workers and designated essential workers are exempt from this requirement."

-To assist those who have had their employment status adversely impacted by COVID-19, the Dept. of Unemployment Assistance is hosting several virtual town hall meetings to assist individuals with filing a claim. Here is the link to sign up: https://www.mass.gov/forms/massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assi...

3/30/20 5PM CodeRED Message:

Good evening, this is Town Administrator Mitch Vieira.  It’s Monday, March 30, 2020 at 5PM.  I am calling with a Town COVID-19 update.  As of the date and time of this message, there are currently 7 COVID-19 cases in Rockport.  We will not be providing further information on the specific cases.

The Governor has indicated that they expect a surge in cases over the next few weeks as testing increases so it is critical that we all practice the CDC and DPH preventative measures:

-Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
-Practice social distancing – staying at least 6 feet away from others
-If it is not vital for you to be going out, other than for exercise, going to work, getting groceries or going to the pharmacy, or things of that nature, please stay home.  If you must go out, please make sure that you are socially distancing.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has shared many helpful resources on their COVID-19 website: mass.gov/covid19.  We also have links to this on the Town’s website rockportma.gov under the COVID-19 Update News Item on the homepage. A reminder to please contact your healthcare provider or the State’s 211 hotline if you have symptoms.  Calling 911 should be reserved for emergencies only.

The Town’s social media accounts and website are updated regularly, often several times a day, with the latest information on COVID-19.  Barring any emergent issues, the next Code RED call will be next Monday, April 6, 2020 between 4-6PM.  Thank you and be well.

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3/27/2020:

3/27/2020 6:45PM:
Good evening,

This office will be putting out weekly Code RED calls on Monday evenings for the next several weeks with the latest Town updates regarding COVID-19, including the number of confirmed cases in Town. The information will also be posted on this page and all Town social media accounts and the Town website - rockportma.gov under the Coronavirus Update news item on the home page.  The website and social media accounts will be updated on an ongoing basis/in some cases, daily as new information is available.

To ensure that you have the latest information, please sign up for Code RED on the Town website (click the Code RED tab for enrollment options).

If there are immediate/time-sensitive concerns, we will issue additional Code RED messages as required.

Mitch Vieira

Town Administrator

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3/23/2020:

Text of 4PM Code Red Message:

Good evening this is Town Administrator Mitch Vieira.  It is Monday, March 23, 2020 at 4PM.  I am reaching out with an important COVID-19 update on behalf of the Board of Selectmen.  As of the date and time of this message, there are now two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rockport.  This occurrence was expected as the virus spreads. As testing increases, we expect the number of cases to rise here and across the Commonwealth.  The Board of Health’s Public Health Nurse is conducting the required investigation and contact tracing with the individuals, who are following all social isolation protocols either at home or in a healthcare facility.  If you are not contacted by the Public Health Nurse, you are not considered a direct contact; there will be no further information provided about the individuals pursuant to federal and state privacy laws.

It is critically important to continue the ongoing preventative measures that are being shared by the CDC and MA Dept. of Public Health, especially social distancing and regular hand washing.  I implore everyone to follow these measures as well as other information shared by DPH and the CDC. If you don’t need to be out of your home, please stay there – this goes for all age groups, not just those considered vulnerable.  This is our opportunity to flatten the curve of this virus.  Anyone that displays symptoms associated with COVID-19 should first contact their primary care physician or the state’s 2-1-1 hotline.  Calling 911 should be restricted to emergencies only.  If emergency care is required, please be sure to provide all symptoms to the dispatcher at that time.

To our business community, pursuant to the Governor’s order, all non-essential businesses are required to close effective March 24, 2020 at Noon.  To those businesses classified as essential, you must ensure that social distancing and all safeguards are in place.  If you are unable to, please close through April 6.  The list of essential positions and businesses is posted on the Town website under the Coronavirus Update news item.  Town Offices will remain closed to the public through April 6 with limited staff handling phone calls and emails.  Payments and correspondence can be dropped off at the rear door of Town Hall for all departments.

A specific area that requires social distancing is the Transfer Station.  While this location serves as a hub of activity in Town, extra care and attention to social distancing is required while using this site.  Please follow the directions of Transfer Station staff; they will be limiting the number of vehicles in at any one time.

  In closing, please continue to check the Town website, rockportma.gov, for detailed information as well as the Town’s social media accounts.  Thank you for doing your part for our collective health.  Be well.

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3/20/2020:

A clarification on yesterday's closure post: Parks and beaches remain open for those wishing to utilize them for passive activity, walking, and other non-contact/non-group activities. No sports/pickup games allowed and no group gatherings. The equipment referenced in yesterday's post (copied below) remains closed until further notice. Thanks for your continued cooperation.

3/19/20 Message:

Effective today, March 19, 2020 at 10:30AM, all Town and School playgrounds, playscapes, swings, basketball & tennis courts, the skate park, and athletic fields are closed until further notice.

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3/19/2020:

Text of Code RED message 10:30AM:

Good Morning,

Effective today, March 19, 2020 at 10:30AM, all Town and School playgrounds, playscapes, swings, basketball & tennis courts, the skate park, and athletic fields are closed until further notice.  

Please note: this Code Red message is being sent via email and text only; there is no phone call.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Mitch Vieira
Town Administrator

Rob Liebow
Superintendent of Schools

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3/16/2020:

Text of Code Red Message 3/16/2020 6PM:

Good evening, this is Town Administrator Mitch Vieira.  It is Monday, March 16, 2020 at 6PM.  This call is to provide you with the latest information from the Town of Rockport relating to COVID-19.  As of the date and time of this message, there are currently no cases in Rockport.  As many of you know, Governor Baker and the Commonwealth have issued additional restrictions relating to gatherings and food establishments.  You can find links to the information that the Commonwealth has issued on the Town website, rockportma.gov, under the Coronavirus Update news item on the homepage.  Since the last call, The Town has the following new information for you:

-The Board of Health has been in communication with all restaurants to share guidance and information as those that opt to stay open transition to to-go only.

-The Board of Selectmen has declared a local state of emergency as of 10AM this morning.  This declaration allows the Town to seek reimbursement for expenses associated with the response to this public health crisis.  It is important to note that this does not affect the general public and does not indicate that there is any increase in severity of the situation in Rockport.

-The Commonwealth has provided significant resources for small businesses and those who may be affected and need to seek unemployment assistance.  That information can be found on the Town website.  Further, the state has set up a 211 hotline for any questions that citizens have; this is a helpful resource for everyone to take note of, especially those without or with limited access to, a computer or device.

I will continue to send out these messages periodically to keep you informed but please continue to check our social media channels and the Town website for information as we work through this public health crisis together.

Most importantly, it is vital that we all heed the warnings for social distancing and other preventative measures as we work to flatten the impact curve of this virus.

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RESOURCES FOR BUSINESSES FROM THE COMMONWEALTH:

 -Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program

EIDL offers Massachusetts businesses who are experiencing hardships resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak access up to $2M in emergency loan capital with rates capped at 3.75%.

We are currently working with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to activate the EIDL program. We will update this group when the program formally opens.

Businesses can learn more about the SBA’s response to COVID-19 here: https://www.sba.gov/page/guidance-businesses-employers-plan-respond-coro...

 

-The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development offers resources for businesses related to employee benefits and will post additional guidance as it becomes available. Programs include:

Updated information regarding unemployment resources can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-directives#busin...

The WorkShare program, a tool to help employers avoid layoffs during a downturn – read more about WorkShare at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/workshare-information-for-employers

The Rapid Response program, which works closely with companies to avert layoffs and keep a skilled workforce engaged in the existing regional economy or industry; read more about how the Rapid Response Team can help businesses at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/rapid-response-layoff-aversion

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3/13/2020:

Text of Code Red Message 3/13/2020 5PM:

Good evening, this is Town Administrator Mitch Vieira.  It is Friday March 13, 2020 at 5 p.m. This is a Code RED Information message to update the community. As of the date and time of this message, there are no positive cases of COVID-19 in Rockport; however, it is important that we all continue to prepare in a thoughtful and calm manner for the likelihood that there will be cases in the near future.  The Town of Rockport is continuing to take steps to address the growing concern over the Coronavirus in the best interests of the public. This message is being provided on behalf of the Board of Selectmen to inform you of the proactive measures being taken to minimize exposure and spread of the virus.Effective immediately, The following Town Offices and buildings will be closed to the public until at least March 29, 2020:

 

  • Town Hall
  • Town Hall Annex
  • Rockport Public Library
  • Community House and Council on Aging
  • T-Wharf Harbormaster Office and Public Restrooms
  • Rockport Schools are closed through the same time period

Employees will be working normal hours at Town Offices and buildings to answer phone calls and emails and conduct business but the Town will not be allowing public access to the facilities.  Please visit the Town website for specific phone numbers.  You can also call the Town’s general directory line: 978-546-5000.

The Transfer Station will remain open normal hours but the swap shop, book barn, and office trailers will be closed to the public.

Senior Care’s Meals on Wheels meal deliveries will continue without interruption.

For your convenience, a secure drop box is available at the rear door at Town Hall for Payments and for any information or correspondence for all Town departments regardless of their location.  (open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week)

Another important note: Town Meeting has been postponed, until a date to be determined in May

Due to the ongoing concerns regarding the spread of the virus, no town offices or public safety buildings or employees will be accepting food items from the public.  We certainly appreciate the sentiment from the community for our dedicated employees and first responders but ask that you please refrain.

We anticipate that these steps and measures will be in place for a minimum of two weeks. The Board of Selectmen and I, along with our department heads, will re-assess our status in concert with other communities, the MA Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Residents are encouraged to visit the town web site (rockportma.gov) for the most up – to - date information, as well as the Town’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

On behalf of the Board of Selectmen, we thank you for your assistance and cooperation as we work together as a community to deal with this public health issue.  We wish all of you good health.

 

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Important Information from the School Food Service Dept. on where students can access meals during the school closure:

1)
A lunch "Pick-Up Station" in Gloucester at the:
O'Maley Middle School
312 Cherry St.
Gloucester, MA 01930
Monday-Friday from 11:00 AM-12:00 NOON.
All children ages 18 and under, regardless of their Free/Reduced/Full Pay status will receive a FREE complete nutritious bagged lunch daily. The meals are prepared under the same strict nutrition and food safety guidelines that are followed every day in our school kitchens. Meals may not be consumed at the "Pick-Up Station" limiting participants' interaction and proximity to other participants.

2)
If the Gloucester location is not convenient for the family:
Families may access Project Bread's (a division of the state's Child Nutrition Program) FOODSOURCE HOTLINE by calling 1-800-645-8333
Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-7:00 PM and Saturdays from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM.
This hotline will have the most up-to-date information on where to get free meals throughout the state during this unprecedented time.

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School Closure Message from Superintendent:

After thorough and careful consideration of the information presented during this morning’s conference call with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Commissioner of Education regarding the serious nature and rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus in Massachusetts, the Rockport Public Schools has made the difficult but prudent decision to close down our school buildings beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 for a minimum period of two weeks and will not reopen at the earliest until Monday, March 30, 2020.  In addition, no activities will be allowed at the school during the closure and employees who are able to do so will be working from home. The situation will be reviewed periodically during this timeframe to determine if the length of closure will need to be extended any further and you will be updated as appropriate.  We realize this decision has a significant impact for our community and understand the frustration and uncertainty that is created. However, we believe these steps are necessary given the current situation.  As a result of this emergency closure, the last day of school this year will now be Friday, June 19, 2020.  This new date is based on the updated guidelines issued earlier this week by the Commissioner of Education requiring school to be held up until our previously scheduled 185th student day,

The Rockport Board of Health and our school nursing staff urgently remind all parents and children that it is imperative to follow proper protocols for personal protection for prevention, as well as to lower risk of transmission of illness to others. Please remember the importance of social and personal distancing and to avoid large gatherings. We appreciate your flexibility, support and understanding as we strive to meet the needs of our entire community at this difficult time.

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The Town of Rockport has taken the following steps as of 3/12/2020 to address the Coronavirus public health issue:

Following the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, and in an effort to limit potential issues and exposure in Rockport, effective 8:00AM on Friday, March 13, 2020 and until further notice, the following requirements and restrictions are in place:

  • All conferences, training, seminars and other discretionary professional meetings and gatherings that require Town employees or volunteers to attend in person outside of Rockport are cancelled/not allowed and Town employees and volunteers are prohibited from attending. 
  • In-Town training sessions for departments that are not considered urgent or time-sensitive are canceled. 
  • Use of Town Buildings (excluding schools) for rentals and non-essential events and classes is prohibited until further notice. All classes and events at the Council on Aging have been canceled; the Public Library is in the process of doing the same.  All meals through the Meals on Wheels program will continue at this time.
  • All Town Boards/Committees/Commissions have been directed to limit their meetings to matters that are time-sensitive only and cancel if there are no time-sensitive matters.
  • All departments are reviewing and updating their Town webpages to ensure that the information is current, including forms that the public can download instead of coming in to retrieve.  

Additional restrictions will be announced as they are made.  At this time, Town Offices continue to be open to the public but it is strongly advised that you consider using the information available on the Town website and the below methods for bill payments.  If you are sick, please do not come into Town Offices to avoid spreading any potential illness.

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Payment methods available (instead of coming into the Treasurer/Collector's counter):

-Secure mail drop in the back door of Town Hall – this is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.  Please be sure to put your payment and bill information in a sealed envelope.

-Mail-In Lockbox service – Included with each original bill mailed is a remittance slip and return envelope.  Simply mail your check payment in the envelope provided, with the remittance slip, to the address indicated on the remittance slip.

-Our online bill payment portal – From the Town of Rockport’s homepage, located at www.rockportma.gov, you can click on “Pay Bills” and settle your payments electronically.

-Many banks provide bill payment services to their customers.  Should you choose to use your bank’s bill pay services, please note that because the Town of Rockport is not set-up to receive those payments electronically, your bank will mail a paper check to us, on your behalf.  Please be sure to indicate the specific bill you are paying, the relevant bill/account number and to please use the following address to send the payment: Town of Rockport, PO Box 150, Rockport, MA 01966

Additional Important Information:

  • Town Meeting, previously scheduled for April 4, 2020, has been postponed to May.  A final date will be announced once selected.  Please note that this also affects the Town Election, which will occur on the fifth Tuesday following Town Meeting.  Please contact the Town Clerk for questions relating to the election.
  • The Town continues to diligently disinfect all common touch areas in public buildings and will continue to do so until further notice.  Employees are regularly disinfecting their areas, including keyboards/mouse, phones, cell phones, keys, and other devices.  Consider doing the same with your personal vehicles and devices.
  • The Board of Health has recommended that all individuals get a flu shot and for those eligible, a pneumonia shot.  Eligibility is determined by your healthcare provider.
  • The main directory number for Town Offices is 978-546-5000; you can also reach them on their direct lines which are available on their individual webpages.  The main directory line will provide you with options to select the department you wish to speak with.  Please consider calling and/or checking department webpages before coming to Town Offices.

We encourage the public to access information by visiting the DPH website for updates and additional information:

www.mass.gov/2019coronavirus

Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses and are generally spread through respiratory secretions (droplets from coughs and sneezes) of an infected person to another person. Symptoms of novel coronavirus include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and in severe cases, pneumonia (fluid in the lungs). 

 To prevent any virus, people are advised to take many of the same steps they do to help prevent colds and the flu, including:

  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) when unable to wash hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, & mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue then discard.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Stay home when feeling sick.