I know there are many concerns about the spread of the Corona virus (COVID-19) and I wanted to share the latest info I have. On Monday I spent most of the day at a hearing with the Mass. Secretary of Health & Human Services and our Commissioner for the Department of Public Health and was able to ask them questions directly. They had a lot of good information to share which I am passing along.
A couple things to keep in mind: 1) While this is certainly a significant health concern in Massachusetts, the risk to the general public remains low. 2) New information is coming out regularly so please check the special state website for latest updates: https://www.mass.gov/covid19 [https://www.mass.gov/covid19]
• Current cases . As of Monday evening there are 41 confirmed or presumptive positive cases in Massachusetts. All are isolating at home or in a healthcare setting. Of this total 32 are associated with the Biogen conference held last month at the Marriott Longwharf. Four of the cases are tied to foreign travel and 5 of the cases remain under investigation. None of the reported cases were from Plymouth County but there were 10 cases in Norfolk County.
• DPH testing. The Mass. Department of Public Health lab was a pproved for testing two weeks ago by the CDC. They are now running around the clock and can process approximately 50 tests per day. Funds to cover overtime costs for staff have already been appropriated by the Legislature and approved by the Governor. The testing process involves RNA testing which can be time intensive but the FDA/CDC is expected to issue new guidelines soon that would automate and thus speed up part of the testing process.
• Testing policy has also been updated. Previously the state, operating according to CDC & FDA guidance, was only testing individuals who had direct, documented contact with Corona patient or who had traveled to one of impacted countries. That policy has been updated and according to DPH “clinicians may now use their clinical judgment about who needs testing.”
• A presumptive test just means that the test was conducted by DPH but has not yet been re-tested and confirmed by the CDC.
• Private commercial labs are now able to conduct tests. Quest diagnostics announced Monday they have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. and others are expected to follow soon.
• Protective equipment for medical workers has been requested by DPH from the Federal government’s national stockpile. That request is still pending.
• Personal hygiene is important. Common sense steps to take include washing your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and clean things that are frequently touched. More prevention tips here [https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-prevention-and-treatment] .
If you have additional questions please let me know. I am certainly no medical expert so please contact your health care provider if you have specific health concerns, but I am happy to try and chase down any policy related questions you might have.
You can reach me via email here or also call my State House office at 617-722-2810. For more regular update you may also follow my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/joshscutler [https://www.facebook.com/joshscutler]