State Public Health Commissioner Doctor Monica Bharell now has more power to deal with the outbreak of the Coronavirus which has now been deemed a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization. Under the provisions of the State of Emergency that was announced Tuesday, the doctor has more leeway to make decisions without dealing first with the Public Health Council. Besides the powers that the Commissioner has, now local Boards of Health have power to isolate or quarantine residents.
The only western Massachusetts county to report any Covid 19 activity is Berkshire County where there are 7 presumptive cases. The Mayor of North Adams among those that are in self quarantine. In addition, as many as 70 nurses at Berkshire Medical Center are under quarantine according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Those nurses were treating patients while they were wearing masks but apparently not with eye shields.
State officials this afternoon have confirmed six cases of the virus in Massachusetts. There are still 89 unconfirmed cases. There are two confirmed cases in Connecticut.
In New Hampshire, two Democrats and a Republican are under self quarantine to possible exposure to the virus. The House Speaker even ordered lawmakers out of the House Chamber if they had to cough or sneeze.
As for the colleges--UMass President Marty Meehan has announced that all five campuses, including Amherst would move toward remote classes. Meehan says they will go through April 3rd with that remote learning protocol and would extend further if need be. Westfield State University is also cancelling face to face classes until March 20th. Then on- line classes will begin the week of the 23rd.
The Casino Commission says all three licensees in the state, including MGM Springfield are employing enhanced sanitation and prevention procedures. At the Encore facility in Everett, employees will soon begin taking the temperature of guests before they enter the facility to make sure only healthy guests enter.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth, Bill Galvin, who is also the man who oversees elections is looking for increased power as well. There are four special elections planned for the end of the month and the Secretary wants special powers that would allow him to postpone the election if need be.
(Photo provided by CDC)