|State Creates COVID-19 Command Center|
|11:57AM / Saturday, March 14, 2020|
BOSTON – The governor has created a COVID-19 Response Command Center to be headed by Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.
The command center reports to Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and will be the commonwealth's single point of strategic decision making and coordination in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Our administration has been working for weeks to address the outbreak of COVID-19, and the new Response Command Center we are launching today is an important step in our planning and preparedness efforts," said Baker in a statement announcing the action on Saturday mornng. "Led by Secretary Marylou Sudders, this team of experts will focus solely on pushing back against this disease and moving quickly to respond to the needs of our communities and residents."
The center will have complete authority and discretion to tap whatever state funds are necessary. This includes the $15 million recently appropriated by the Legislature for coronavirus.
The command structure will enable the advancement of key initiatives including:
Working to expand lab capacity for testing
Planning quarantine operations
Coordinating communication and guidance across government
Responding to the needs of local boards of health
Monitoring supply chains
Identifying surge capacity in the commonwealth's health network.
Decision making in regard to the pandemic has largely been left to local officials and boards of health. The administration on Friday issued an emergency order prohibiting gatherings of 250 people and, the day before, modifications in Open Meeting Law to allow for remote participation.
School districts were left to determine on their own whether to close, which local schools did on Friday after coordination between the Berkshire County Superintendents Roundtable. Some towns are closing or restricting access to municipal buildings and the Romand Catholic Diocese of Springfield has suspended public attendance at Masses and other parish events. A number of Protestant congregations have followed suit.
Sudders, speaking at press conference announcing the command center, said provisions have been made to expand MassHealth coverage for telephonic and telehealth visits and for 90-day prescriptions.
Some 475 people in Massachusetts have been tested for COVID-19; the count of infected on Saturday morning stood at 123, with 105 presumptive 18 confirmed. However, testing has been limited in access although it is expected to begin ramping up after the state received materials to test 5,000 individuals. Harvard University infectious disease experts
say that is well below the 1.4 million needed.