Samantha Phillips, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, speaks with local officials during a meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission on May 14, 2019. Listening is Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Samantha Phillips provided the following responses today to questions asked by local officials from across the state during a March 24 conference call.

Yesterday’s call also included Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and representatives from the Department of Public Health, Division of Local Services, and others.

Food security and vulnerabilities
Q: Is the state looking into food security and vulnerabilities in the supply chain? These vulnerabilities could be local labor shortage, contamination, or vulnerabilities in the place origin or disruption in transportation/logistics.
MEMA: We are beginning to do some longer-term modeling and contingency planning that looks at critical sectors, vulnerability of those sectors, and supply chain resiliency.

Priority for testing first responders
Q: Can we get some priority for first responders to be tested for COVID-19? We have an ill firefighter who was told by his primary care physician that he does not fit criteria for testing, but we’re not sure we should allow him back to work without knowing if he has been exposed or presents a risk to his colleagues or the public?
MEMA: The First Responder Work Group in the state Emergency Operations Center is working with the Department of Public Health to develop options/solutions for first responder testing.

[Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director at the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Department of Public Health, said COVID testing for first responders is being prioritized at the state lab. He encouraged local officials and health care providers with questions about COVID-19 to call the DPH’s Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800, where epidemiologists are available at all hours.]

Rooming for first responders who were exposed
Q: Is there anything in filed legislation that would provide local aid to support rooming for first responders who were exposed to coronavirus, rather than having them potentially take it home to their families?
MEMA: The Mass Care Work Group in the State Emergency Operations Center is working on several housing solutions, including one for first responders. Non-congregate housing (which is what this is) requires special approval by FEMA before we can implement it. MEMA is obtaining this approval currently.

Personal Protective Equipment
Q: What is the process for requesting Personal Protective Equipment from MEMA?
MEMA: Communities and first responders should request PPE through MEMA’s regional offices. Local emergency management directors (and other public safety leaders at the local level) are in touch with MEMA routinely. Here is a list for local Emergency Management Directors: www.mass.gov/find-your-local-emergency-management-director-emd.

Warehouse space
Q: I have a local business that has indoor warehouse space if MEMA needs it.
MEMA: Thank you! We are working out of a warehouse space that is meeting our needs for the moment, but as this grows, and we look to expand, we appreciate having this as a potential resource.

University facilities as shelters
Q: State universities have thousands of beds on campus that are not being used and won’t likely be used again until September. Could you instruct universities and other public institutions to open up their facilities to serve the needs of their communities? This could provide a regional solution for many communities, particularly for the homeless population. If a guest at a local shelter contracts COVID-19 and isn’t ill enough to require hospitalization, the city or town would be responsible for providing a place to isolate that person, quarantine the other guests, and provide shelter for those who aren’t being isolated or quarantined. This would be to protect the homeless community and the general public from the spread of the disease. A dormitory, with access to a bathroom and private room, could be a great place to do this.
MEMA: We have been working closely with the Executive Office of Education, particularly the core leads for state institutes of higher education, and are working on plans that leverage this resource for the sheltering programs described. We have had great outreach by higher education, which is very appreciated.

Personal Protective Equipment
Q: Is there a federal and/or state stockpile of PPE, and if so when can we expect them?
MEMA: Yes. The Strategic National Stockpile comes from the federal government to a warehouse managed by the Department of Public Health. The DPH has requested several allotments of supplies. Some supplies are already in state, with others being delivered soon. The state is also procuring items and exploring new manufacturing capabilities. Now that the PPE supply chain is reopened and accessible, local communities are encouraged to attempt to procure, as well.

Protective gowns
Q: We need protective gowns. My police department has NONE, and they went in to assist an elderly gentleman who has difficulty breathing today, as our ambulances were all tied up.
MEMA: What town? We can follow-up. Please make sure your Police Department has submitted a resource request. The link has helpful information about who should use PPE and how to prioritize limited supplies: www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-directives#guidance-on-prioritization-of-ppe-in-ma-.