WSAR NEWS Archives for 2020-08

Baker-Polito Administration Announces $7.75 Million To Support Upgrades & Research At UMass Cranberry Station

On Wednesday, the Baker Administration announced $7.75 million in funding to support infrastructure upgrades in the Commonwealth. 

 

Upgrades will include design, construction, retro fitting and outfitting of enhanced lab space at the UMass Cranberry Station based out of Wareham. 

 

The funding will support research designed to help the cranberry industry as an important component of the agricultural economy in Massachusetts. 

 

Research facilities will become modernized. Work will continue on cranberry water, as well as  pest and nutrient management, backed by a $2 million commitment from UMass Amherst for maintenance. 

 

There are 13,300 acres of commercial cranberry bogs in the Commonwealth, in Plymouth, Bristol and Barnstable counties valuing nearly $65 million.

Fall River Residents Advised To Review Vote By Mail Ballots

The Fall River Board of Elections announced that over 8,000 ballots have been mailed to residents in advance of the September 1st primary election. 

 

Due to the unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots this year, the Board of Elections would like to remind residents to double check that all voter mail is accurate.

 

Residents can easily determine that they have the correct ballot by looking at the State Representative race on the ballot.

 

The North end of the city is represented by Carole Fiola, the South end is represented by Alan Silvia, and Paul Schmid represents the areas near the Watuppa Pond on the South end (near Stafford road) and across the water on the North end bordering Westport.

 

The Board of Elections is continuing to send out mail-in ballots. If you have any questions or concerns about your ballot, please contact the Board of Elections at 508-324-2630.

State Public Health Officials Announce Season's Third Human Case Of EEE In The Commonwealth

The Department of Public Health announced that laboratory testing confirmed the third human case of the EEE virus infection. 

 

A male in his 90s was exposed in Plymouth County. As a result, the EEE risk level has been raised to critical in Halifax and high in East Bridgewater and Hanson. 

 

Across the Commonwealth, there are now four municipalities at critical risk, nine at high risk, and 18 at moderate risk for EEE.

 

There have already been two other human cases identified this year. In 2019, there were 12 human cases of EEE in Massachusetts with 6 deaths.

 

EEE virus has been found in 64 mosquito samples this year, over 70 percent of them in species of mosquitoes capable of spreading the virus to people.

Flu Vaccine Now Required For All Massachusetts Students Enrolled In Child Care, Pre-School, K-12, And Post-Secondary Institutions

State public health officials announced that the flu shot will now be required for all children six months of age or older who will attend Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten and K-12, as well as colleges and universities. 

 

The new requirement is intended to reduce flu-related illness and ?the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

The deadline to get the virus will be the final in 2020. New students entering between January 1 and March 31 must have received a dose of vaccine for the current flu season before entry. 

 

Certain exemptions will be allowed such as medical or religious exemptions as well as students who are homeschooled or higher education students who are completely off-campus and using remote means. 

 

Elementary and secondary students in districts and schools that are using a remote education model are not exempt.

 

“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, Medical Director, DPH’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. 

 

“It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19,” he continued. “Preventing the flu will save lives and preserve healthcare resources.”

D-P-H Announces Season's Second Human Case Of EEE In The Commonwealth

The Department of Public Health has announced that laboratory testing confirmed the second case of the EEE virus this year in Massachusetts, over the weekend. 

 

EEE, better known as Eastern Equine Encephalitis, was found in a female in her 60’s from Hampden County. 

 

As a result, the risk level in Wilbraham has been raised to critical while Hampden and Monson have been raised to high. Additionally, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Ludlow, Palmer, and Springfield in Hampden County have been raised to moderate risk.

 

Across the Commonwealth, three municipalities are at critical risk, eight are at high risk, and 20 are at moderate risk for EEE.

 

EEE virus has been found in 65 mosquito samples this year, over 70 percent of them in species of mosquitoes capable of spreading the virus to people. 

 

DPH is working with the local health departments and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to coordinate mosquito surveillance and appropriate public health response activities.

 

The DPH reminds all residents to use mosquito repellent any time they are outside, and those in high and critical risk communities are advised to schedule their outdoor activity to avoid the dusk to dawn hours to reduce exposure to the mosquitoes most likely to spread EEE.

 

EEE is a rare but potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages. There has already been one other human case identified this year. In 2019, there were 12 human cases of EEE in Massachusetts with 6 deaths.

UMass Dartmouth Postponing October Commencement Ceremonies

UMass Dartmouth is postponing their October Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020. 

 

Due to the pandemic, the original May 2020 ceremony was rescheduled to October 9th & 10th but is now being postponed again. 

 

The university is committed to celebrating the nearly 2,000 graduates in 2021 when it can be held safely per all federal and state guidelines and protocols.  

 

“You finished your UMassD career under difficult circumstances, and you did so with grace, creativity, and passion,” Acting Chancellor Mark Preble said. “I commend you and look forward to a time when we all celebrate together.”

Back To School In Southeastern Mass

Massachusetts Public Schools are returning in a few weeks whether CoronaVirus is here, or not. 

 

Governor Charlie Baker ordered a 10-day delay to the start of the new school year for all municipalities in the Commonwealth and dropped the required amount of school days from 180 to 170 for this year. 

 

We have the plans for most of the local schools in the area and how they will approach the return to learning. 

 

Both Swansea and Fall River will be using a hybrid model to begin the school year with options to pivot to other models if conditions change in either direction. Somerset will start off (almost) exclusively remote. 

 

Swansea Superintendent John Robidoux confirmed the plan will look like a lot of the proposed hybrid models across the region, with two cohorts.

 

Robidoux said students will be placed in Cohorts A and B. On Monday and Tuesday, Cohort A will go to school in-person while Cohort B is remote. Then, on Thursday and Friday Cohort B will be in-person while Cohort A stays at home for remote learning.

 

On Wednesday, all students will be learning remotely. It’s assumed that day will be used for a weekly deep cleaning. 

 

In Somerset, they decided to kick off the year completely remote. Both the Somerset Berkley Regional High School Committee and the Somerset K-8 School Committee voted for it, unanimously. 

 

The plan will allow for high-need special education students to return for face-to-face learning, if needed. The plan also allows for a phased-in approach to go hybrid if conditions change, at a date to be determined that could be as soon as October.  

 

The complete remote model will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning allowing for a simulation of a regular daily school schedule with teachers and students meeting at a specific time for a given class, and students doing assignments when they choose by the given due date. 

 

The expectation is that teachers will be teaching from their classrooms with this plan instead of being at their homes.  

 

The Fall River Public Schools Phased-In Hybrid Model of School Reopening will be broken down into 4 cohorts. 

 

Cohort A will be made-up of english language learners and special education students that need full-time face-to-face learning. They will learn in-person Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday being a remote learning day for all Fall River students in every cohort. 

 

Cohort B is made-up of students who chose to go completely virtual this year and will learn remotely, known as the Fall River Flex Learning Academy.

 

Options to exit Fall River Flex and re-enter one of our in-person learning cohorts will be provided at the end of the first marking period and at other transition dates throughout the year and subject to space availability, transportation capacity, as well as individual student learning needs.

 

Cohorts C & D will be made-up of the rest of the students who don’t fit into A or B. Cohort C will be in-person one week while Cohort D is remote. The week following the two Cohorts will switch and continue that way. 

 

These plans are subject to change and created for that purpose if things do change for the better or for worse, the school systems can adapt.

State Public Health Officials Announce Additional Risk Level Changes for EEE in the Commonwealth

The Department of Public Health has announced that 10 new EEE positive mosquito samples have been found. 

 

The results include samples from Carver and Wareham in Plymouth County as well as Canton in Norfolk County. As a result, the risk level in Wareham has been raised to high. 

 

Currently, Carver and the town of Middleborough are at the critical risk level for EEE. Kingston, Plymtpon and Rochester are already at high risk. 

 

Bridgewater, Halifax, Lakeville and Plymouth in Plymouth County are at moderate risk as are the Bristol County communities in Raynham and Taunton. 

 

The DPH is working with the local health departments, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and local Mosquito Control Projects to coordinate surveillance and appropriate public health response activities.

 

All residents are reminded to use mosquito repellent any time they are outside, and those in high and critical risk communities are advised to schedule their outdoor activity to avoid the dusk to dawn hours to reduce exposure to the mosquitoes most likely to spread EEE.

State Public Health Officials Announce Season's First Human Case of EEE in the Commonwealth

The Department of Public Health has announced that laboratory testing has confirmed the first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, better known as EEE, in the Commonwealth. 

 

A male under the age of 18 was exposed in Plymouth County. As a result, the risk level in Carver and Middleborough of Plymouth County has been raised to critical. 

 

In addition, Kingston, Plympton and Rochester are at high risk. Bridgewater, Halifax, Lakeville, Plymouth, and Wareham in Plymouth County, and Raynham and Taunton in Bristol County are now at moderate risk.

 

“EEE is rare, but it is a serious disease and public health concern, and we remind residents of the need to protect themselves from mosquito bites as EEE activity increases,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. 

 

DPH is working with the local health departments, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and local Mosquito Control Projects to coordinate surveillance and appropriate public health response activities.

 

“The single best prevention tool continues to be avoiding mosquito bites by using repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, weather permitting, and avoiding outdoor activity between the hours of dusk and dawn in the highest risk areas,” Bharel continued. 

 

EEE is a rare but potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages. In Massachusetts there were 12 human cases of EEE in 2019 with 6 deaths.

 

It has been found in 29 mosquito samples this year, including in species of mosquitoes capable of spreading the virus to people

 

All residents are reminded to use mosquito repellent any time they are outside, and those in high and critical risk communities are advised to schedule their outdoor activity to avoid the dusk to dawn hours to reduce exposure to the mosquitoes most likely to spread EEE.

Baker-Polito Administration Increases Customer Protections for Gas and Electric Service

The Department of Public Utilities has issued an order instituting increased protections for customers of electric and gas utilities as well as extending the prohibition on investor-owned utility companies shutting off services for nonpayment. 

 

The shutoff moratorium is part effort from the Baker-Polito Administration to protect ratepayers. It has been extended to August 31st for businesses and November 15th for residents. 

 

“This Order will help protect the residents and businesses that have faced economic hardships during the pandemic, while ensuring continued reliable gas and electric service,” said DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson. 

 

“By implementing new customer protection requirements, the Baker-Polito Administration is providing a safety net for residents and small businesses as we move toward a new normal in the Commonwealth,” he continued.  

 

Additionally, the order says that utility companies cannot assess late fees or discontinue service to customers enrolled in a payment plan. 

 

To ensure customers have notice of any potential shutoff, companies are required, in advance of any potential shutoff, to issue notices to customers that inform customers about the payments due, the availability of payment plans, and the potential for shutoffs. 

 

Companies must also continue to waive the late payment fees for small C&I customers for six months following the date that Governor Baker lifts the State of Emergency. 

 

They are also  required to waive any previously required “good faith payments” in circumstances where a customer re-enrolls in an arrearage management plan (AMP) after breaking from a prior AMP.

 

Investor-owned water companies remain prohibited from shutting off water service due to nonpayment, and the DPU is currently working to address water companies separately.

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