Virus notes: Baker cabinet secretary tests positive
Lauren Baker launches COVID-19 relief fund
THE STATE’S PUBLIC SAFETY SECRETARY has tested positive for COVID-19, he announced Monday night, and is working from home.
“This weekend, after experiencing mild symptoms, I was screened for COVID-19 and was notified late yesterday that I had tested positive,” Secretary Thomas Turco said in a statement. “I have notified my close contact colleagues and am working from home, where I remain in frequent contact by phone and email with public safety agency heads and my senior staff.”
He is the second Baker administration official to test positive. The first was Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, who made her announcement on March 27.
Turco oversees the Department of Correction, which has been guarding against a COVID-19 outbreak within the prison system and coming under fire from prisoner advocates for putting inmates at risk of infection.
Lauren Baker launches COVID-19 relief fund
Lauren Baker, the wife of the governor, unveiled the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund on Monday, which is being launched with $13 million in funding to be distributed to those in need by local foundations and community organizations.
The One8 Foundation provided the initial seed money of $1.8 million and that amount grew with additional donations from others. The fund is being operated pro bono by Eastern Bank and also receiving support from the Boston Foundation and the Foundation for Business Equity.
Lauren Baker said she had no fundraising target. “We have no idea where this is going to go, but we know the need is going to be incredible,” she said.
The governor praised the concept behind the fund. Instead of centralizing the distribution of money, the new fund parcels the money out to local community-based foundations which Baker said know the needs of local communities best. “I’ve not seen anybody do that before,” he said.
Senior care facility offers employees free hotel stays
As fears among those on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis mount, one health care provider is stepping forward to try to ease some of the worry. Hebrew SeniorLife Health Care Services, which provides long-term care and rehabilitation services to 650 patients on two campuses, is offering to cover the full cost of a hotel stay for any direct service staff member.
“Our best and most valued resource and asset is our employees,” said Mary Moscato, the organization’s president, who informed staff members of the offer in an email on Sunday. “We have absolutely heard your concerns of both long work days/hours and possible exposure to your family members while caring for our patients,” she wrote in the message to employees.
Hebrew SeniorLife has reserved a block of rooms for employees at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Dedham. By Monday afternoon, 20 workers had accepted the offer and registered at the hotel, said Moscato. She expects that number to eventually grow to 50. Moscato said the offer to employees is good through May 4, the current effective date of the state of emergency declared by Gov. Charlie Baker. She said it could be extended beyond that date.
The 820 employees who staff the two health facilities are being asked to work extra hours because the coronavirus crisis has brought a no-visitor policy and also forced the organization to turn away the help normally provided each day by some 300 volunteers.
“The direct care givers are now responsible for everything,” said Moscato, who said employees need to spend more time with patients. “They are missing their families and it requires a lot of time and compassion.”
Moscato said the centers have adopted extensive safety measures to prevent coronavirus infections. More than a month ago an emergency command center was established to oversee safety policies.
Four patients at the Roslindale facility have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and one has died. Four cases have been confirmed among patients at the Dedham center.
Two firsts in Monday’s Dept. of Public Health data
Dukes and Nantucket counties reported their first COVID-19 fatality on Monday, a male in his 80s with pre-existing health conditions.
Data released by the state Department of Public Health also indicated the county of origin of one of the 29 new deaths from the coronavirus was unknown.The current death toll from the virus is 260 with 13,837 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 10.7 percent over Sunday.