BROOKLINE — The Brookline Select Board, Town Administrator Mel Kleckner, Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Swannie Jett wish to provide the community with several important updates about the town’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency.
There are now 77 positive cases of COVID-19 among residents in Brookline, according to the Department of Brookline Public Health, as well as three cases among non-resident employees of the town. Public health officials expect numbers to continue to increase in line with increased access to testing.
The Town of Brookline’s COVID-19 website, BrooklineCOVID19.com, is updated regularly with a variety of information about the emergency’s impact on services and the community.
CDC Now Recommends Covering Your Face in Public
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has modified its guidance around face masks and coverings, and now recommends that all people — whether they are sick or not — wear a face covering of some kind whenever they leave their home.
Doing so can help lessen the risk of contracting the virus through respiratory droplets.
Dr. Jett emphasizes that this guidance is especially critical for workers in the foodservice industry and grocery stores, and has communicated with Brookline’s grocers to ensure they are aware that their workers should be covering their faces.
“At this point, it should be clear to everyone that there is no good reason to go out other than to obtain essential items like food and medicine,” Dr. Jett said. “In the rare instances where you do go out, you should absolutely be covering your face, as well as doing enough shopping to last you for an extended period of time to reduce the need to leave your home.”
Main Library to Serve as Fire Station
In an effort to further distance its members from one another and reduce the likelihood of spread through the department, the Brookline Fire Department and Public Library of Brookline are partnering to convert the main library, 361 Washington St., into an auxiliary fire station.
Firefighters are expected to begin using the library by mid-week.
New Guidance for Restaurants Regarding Beer and Wine Sales
The Commonwealth has acted to temporarily allow establishments licensed for on-premises malt beverage and wine to make those items available for off-premises consumption. Licensed establishments may sell up to 192 ounces of malt beverages or 1.5 liters of wine for off-site consumption as part of a transaction in which food is also being purchased.
Licensees may sell these items from when they open until midnight, or their licensed closing time, whichever is earlier. Malt beverages and wine may be sold with food orders for both takeout or delivery customers.
To read the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission’s full guidance, click here.
Additional Updates and Information, In Case You Missed Them
Domestic Violence Resources Available Online
The Brookline Police Department has compiled a list of resources for Brookline residents needing support for domestic violence related issues during the COVID-19 emergency.
Those resources are available here.
Important Information for Veterans
All Brookline Chapter 115 recipients should be aware that the Town of Brookline will not count money received under the CARES Act as income for the purposes of determining April or May benefit amounts.
All Chapter 115 benefit checks for April and May will be direct deposit or mailed. Any Brookline veteran wishing to apply for Chapter 115 benefits should contact Bill McGroaty at [email protected], and leave a phone number.
Veterans may also leave a message at the Public Health Office with a return phone number. The requirement for applying for Chapter 115 burial benefits has been extended from from 60 days to 180 days. The requirement for veterans with employment plans to conduct job searches has been suspended for the next 90 days.
Testing for Veterans
The VA is setting up a drive-thru testing site at West Roxbury VA hospital (by appointment only) and a COVID-19 isolation ward has been established.
Most non-essential medical VA office appointments and elective procedures have been postponed and virtual appointments are the best way to communicate with your VA healthcare provider or to refill a prescription is to use your My Healthy Vet account.
Veterans needing technical assistance or want to do a test call with a VA help desk technician, please call the National Telehealth Technology Help Desk at (866) 651-3180 or (703) 234-4483 Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. through 11 p.m. EST
Anyone who receives healthcare from the VA and believes they have COVID-19 symptoms should call their VA primary care provider to see if they meet the criteria for screening and set up a testing appointment.
Compensation for Veterans
VA checks were issued as normal. The Boston Regional office is processing claims, however Comp & Pen exams have been suspended. All VBA hearings have been postponed.
Important Updates from the MBTA About The RIDE
The MBTA and The RIDE, in accordance with the state’s stay-at-home advisory, are cautioning passengers against any non-essential travel and remind users that The Ride is not an emergency transportation service.
Here are some important updates regarding the RIDE:
- Shared trips have been eliminated. RIDE customers can still bring a personal care attendant or guest on their trip.
- New RIDE customers may be granted temporary eligibility if they meet the medical necessity criteria provided to their licensed healthcare provider by The Ride Eligibility Center (TREC)
- CALL TREC at (617)337-2727 if you need assistance regarding new eligibility.
- Booking windows have been adjusted. RIDE customers will need to book trips one to three days in advance.
- Customers with subscription trips will be contacted by TRAC to confirm those trips are still required.
- The RIDE will work to eliminate transfer trips to reduce customer interaction with multiple drivers.
- All RIDE vehicles are cleaned and disinfected every 24 hours.
- Routematch Software transition is delayed. An updated timeline will be shared on the website when it is available.
Closure of Non-Essential Businesses, Stay at Home Advisory Extended
On Tuesday, March 31, Gov. Charlie Baker extended the closure of non-essential businesses to the public until May 4. This means that businesses can have employees work remotely if possible, but that workers, customers or the public are not allowed to visit brick-and-mortar locations. The categories for businesses and other organizations that provide essential services was updated as well and can be found here.
Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited until May 4.
The stay-at-home advisory also remains in effect, and residents are urged to stay home unless they are going out for essential items.
Tax Deadline Extended
The Commonwealth and federal government have both extended their tax filing deadlines to July 15.
Tax Relief for Businesses
Gov. Baker’s office announced tax penalty relief to support businesses affected by COVID-19. The Department of Revenue announced that it will waive any late-file or late-pay penalties for returns and payment due for meals and room occupancy taxes between March 20 and May 31, 2020.
The Town of Brookline’s voluntary construction suspension remains in effect. In addition, the Commonwealth has issued guidance for construction workers and projects, which is accessible here.
Information for Those Seeking to Volunteer
To help streamline the effort to mobilize volunteers as appropriate, those interested in volunteering are asked to fill out this form online.
Brookline COVID-19 Call Center Remains Open
For general COVID-19 questions not specific to the Town of Brookline, please call the state 211 line.
The Town of Brookline has established a call center in order for residents to ask non-medical questions specific to COVID-19 in Brookline. The call center will be staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number for the call center is 617-879-5636.
Residents can call and inquire about where to get food safely, transportation, food or medicine deliveries, childcare, volunteer work, rent and eviction and more.
Residents seeking answers to Brookline-specific medical or public health inquiries should continue to contact the Department of Brookline Public Health at 617-730-2300.
Messages left after hours will be returned as soon as possible. Residents can also email their non-medical inquiries to: [email protected].
Remember, in the case of emergencies, please call 911.
Submit Medical Questions by Email
Residents may submit their medical questions related to COVID-19 via email to [email protected].
Prevention and What to Do if You Feel Sick
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Brookline Public Health have stated that seniors and those with chronic health conditions are the most at-risk for serious illness caused by the coronavirus; they urge that those in this vulnerable population take appropriate precautions to mitigate their risk of becoming sick. As has been widely suggested, any person who believes they may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their primary care physician immediately.
Federal, state and local health leaders all encourage residents to actively take part in social distancing — avoiding close physical contact with others, especially gatherings of 10 people or more, and working from home — in order to slow the spread of the virus.
Reported symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and respiratory illness, including pneumonia in severe cases.
If anyone displays symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they should stay home and they are advised to contact their primary care physician. According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus appear within 2-14 days of exposure.
If you feel sick, the CDC recommends:
- Calling your primary care physician before visiting them in person
- Staying home and limiting your contact with others
- Wearing a facemask whenever you leave your home.
Brookline Public Health recommends that residents continue with good hygiene practices including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds including under your fingernails. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol content) can be used when soap and water are not available.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing with a tissue and discard it immediately. Cough into the sleeve over your elbow instead of your hand. Wash your hands often when coughing and sneezing.
- Stay away from people who are sick and stay home when you are sick.
Free and Reduced Lunch for Brookline Students
Free and reduced price lunches are available for qualifying families on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the period that schools are closed. For information on school lunches, including when and where to pick up lunch for your student, click here.
To order lunch online, click here.
Brookline Food Pantry Update
For more information about the Brookline Food Pantry’s response to COVID-19, and to sign up for its Brookline Thrives program, visit brooklinefoodpantry.org.
For the latest information on resources available to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, click here.
Active Town Closures/Cancellations
For updates on active closures and cancellations, visit brooklinecovid19.com/active-closures/.