Stepping into the unknown, bravely: Milton prepares for coronavirus

Stepping into the unknown, bravely

March 20, 2020

The Milton Times

Significant disruptions of daily life are hitting nearly everyone hard as cancellations and prohibitions continue to increase in Greater Boston and Milton, where two residents have tested “presumptive positive” of the Coronavirus.

Health Director Caroline Kinsella said that her department remains in close contact with the state Department of Public Health and will continue to bring residents updates about what has been ruled a worldwide pandemic.

On March 14, Gov. Charlie Baker stepped up the state’s response, instituting a mandatory three-week closure for all schools in the state and banning gatherings of more than 25 people and ordering all restaurants to go to take out service only.

Baker also announced the creation of a $10 million coronavirus relief fund for small businesses.

In addition to the closing of all schools for three weeks, Milton officials closed Milton Public Library on March 15, the Council on Aging, and Milton Town Hall was closed to the public as of March 16.

Effective March 17, all parks and playgrounds in Milton are shut down and will remain closed until further notice to discourage social gatherings.

Public health officials strongly discourage activities that promote gathering of people, including play dates, parties, and social visits.

“We thank you for your understanding and patience as we are forced to continue to make and modify decisions under short notice inorder to continue to deliver essential services and protect public health,” said Town Administrator Mike Dennehy.

Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital – Milton implemented its Incident Command Center about two weeks ago and is meeting daily to implement best practices.

“To protect our patients, visitors and staff, all visitors to the hospital are now being screened at the entrances and visitor restrictions have been put into place,” said Bob McCrystal BID-Milton spokesman.

McCrystal said Beth Israel Lahey Health system hospitals are in the process of cancelling non-urgent surgeries, procedures, tests and outpatient appointments.

“We also are developing a plan for drive thru testing at the hospital to allow for accessible testing for the community. We will publish information about this program as soon as it is operational,” he said.

On March 11, Kinsella announced that two Milton residents had tested “presumptive positive” for this virus. The two attended the recent Biogen conference that is tied to dozens of cases.

Kinsella said these residents contacted the Health Department and had been in a voluntary self-quarantine since the event.

They do not have children in the Milton Public Schools, private schools, or daycare facilities, she said.

The Select Board, acting as Gov. Stoughton Trustees, approved an additional $10,000 to the Milton Food Pantry to help residents stock up on supplies should they be quarantined.

At the Council on Aging, the annual corned beef luncheon was not scrapped until the staff had started cooking the meal that was set to be served on March 11.

Festively dressed volunteers and workers made the best of it by handing out and delivering about 100 take out meals, thanks to take out boxes provided by local restaurateur Vance Welch.

The COA center on Walnut Street was closed on March 13 as officials contemplated the best approach to serve their elderly clientele which is among the groups most at risk from the virus.

Also on March 13, Milton Public Schools officials consulted with state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) officials to determine the best course going forward.

State Sen. Walter Timility praised the host of Milton officials led by Kinsella, whom he said is providing “a steady hand to guide us through this pandemic.”

“When you combine that with Caroline’s immense talents, we’re in great hands,” he said.

The state legislature also expedited a $15 million supplemental state budget to assist local and state boards of health.

The additional funding package granted $95,000 to allow the state to certify more laboratories to handle testing.

The bulk will go to the state Department of Public Health in conjunction with local health departments to provide sustainable services.

“This crisis requires us all to work together. I believe you’re seeing that,” Timilty said, adding that work on additional legislation to assist displaced workers is also underway.

He invited anyone with concerns or worries to contact his office at: 617-722-1643, www.senatorwaltertimilty.com,  or walter.timilty@masenate.gov.

In her weekly information bulletin, school Superintendent Mary Gormley said the district is seeking guidance from the state and making its own preparations.

 

“Under the leadership of Educational Technology Director, AJ Melanson, we are exploring options for remote learning if needed,” Gormley wrote. “In order to ensure the best use of time to allow staff to prepare for potential remote learning, we will not be holding phone conferences.”

 

Gormley said that the schools have developed a plan for supporting food insecure students that includes making meals available for children on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Tucker Elementary School and Milton High School if classes are canceled for three or more days.

 

The district is also exploring additional options for Special Education students.

 

Parent-Teacher Conferences for March 19 were canceled, spring sports tryouts have been delayed, and several concerts were postponed.

 

Anyone who has business with the town should do it by email, mail, phone, internet, and via the drop box outside Town Hall.

 

The Treasurer’s Office is promoting use of the town’s on-line payment services available through the town’s website at https://www.townofmilton.org/home/pages/online-payments.

 

All in-person inspections and appraisals have been suspended indefinitely.

 

“If you have business to conduct with the town, please do so online,” Dennehy said.

 

Activities organized by the Milton Recreation Department, including the after school youth center program, have been put on hold.

 

The First Congregational Church, which hosts the program, is one of many area churches that canceled in person services.

 

Civic groups and a host of St. Patrick’s Day and early Easter celebrations have already been canceled as well. People are encouraged to stay at home, except to get necessities.

 

Kinsella said the goal of Milton officials is to slow the transmission through voluntary self-quarantine and isolation for anyone who has come in contact with someone who has the virus.

 

While women, pregnant women, and children tend to fare well, according to Kinsella, it is more critical to keep an eye on middle-aged people, those age 70 and above, and those with underlying medical conditions.

 

“If you are sick with influenza-like symptoms, stay at home. If you have fever and or lower respiratory symptoms, call your primary care doctor,” Kinsella advised.

 

She said that those without a physician should call the state Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800.

 

Library staff will continue to be available with reference help and book recommendations via phone and email. Books and materials can be returned through the book drop.

 

The Council on Aging is closed to the public, but the COA van service is continuing to provide limited transportation for essential services only (medical appointments, grocery shopping, pharmacies, etc.). Staff will be available via phone at 617-898-4893.

 

Public Health staff has contacted all food establishments with information on specific food code requirements that will help establishments and employees limit the potential spread of coronavirus or any influenza virus as well as a list of EPA-approved disinfectants and food code regulations. For more information, go to https://www.townofmilton.org/health-department

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