COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates

Page last updated August 25, 2020.

This page was created to keep NEWEA members and water professionals, as well as New England communities, regulators, and elected officials, updated with the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. At this time, the situation is fluid, so this page will be modified as we receive new information.

Scroll down or click the links below to access the following information:

New England Updates (As of August 25, 2020)

Connecticut

Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening plan began on June 17, 2020, but the state has halted plans to move onto Phase 3 due to a surge in COVID cases. Phase 3 would include reopening bars and increasing dining capacity. Governor Lamont’s emergency powers are set to expire on September 9, unless the Legislature returns to session to extend his powers. Should these powers expire, all executive orders related to the pandemic would also expire and require an individual vote to remain in effect.

Businesses that did reopen as part of Phase 1 or 2 were required to Self-Certify their business, confirming that their business is following safety regulations. These safety guidelines and protocols include frequent cleaning and disinfecting, required face coverings for employees, and employee training prior to opening. Ct.gov also outlines rules for essential employers to follow, including required face masks or cloth face coverings and prohibiting non-essential visitors. Businesses that need PPE and/or cleaning supplies to comply with the requirements of reopening can find information on purchasing those supplies on CT.gov. Additionally, the state of Connecticut Department of Health has issued Information about Environmental Controls for the Virus that Causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for Offices and Schools.

On August 11, 2020, the Connecticut’s Department of Education published Volume 2 of Frequently Asked Questions, providing clarification about their Adapt, Advance, Achieve School Reopening Plan. Teacher’s unions are calling on the governor to follow the lead of Massachusetts and Rhode Island by delaying school openings by two weeks and extending remote learning, but 55 percent of schools are on track to reopen for in-person learning, while 44 percent plan to return with a hybrid model. The state plans to monitor cases on a county-by-county basis and would reevaluate in-person instruction if  the infection rate rose to 10 cases per 100,000 people.

Maine

Phase 3 of Maine’s reopening began on July 1, 2020, reopening indoor establishments such as movie theaters and bowling alleys. A face covering must be worn at all times when at an indoor business, as well as during large in-person gatherings, even those taking place outdoors. The state has issued a checklist to follow during this phase of reopening. Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services issued a resource sheet to keep employees informed about stopping the spread of germs, what someone should do if they become ill, and more.

Additionally, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection has developed a COVID-19 resources page to keep Maine residents and water professionals informed on “programs, processes and procedures where changes have become necessary in the way we do business and provide services to our customers and partners”. This includes a section from the Bureau of Water Quality, containing a reminder about what not to flush, resources for wastewater treatment facilities, and information about the Wastewater Operator Certification program.

All 16 counties in Maine have been labelled as “green” from Governor Mills, meaning they are lower risk for transmitting COVID and may consider in-person learning, provided all protocols are followed. Although all counties have been categorized as green, more than 150 school districts have decided to move forward with a hybrid learning model.

Massachusetts

As of August 7, Governor Baker paused the second step the state’s Phase 3 reopening, which delays the opening of indoor performance venues and activities like laser tag and roller skating. Outdoor gathering limits have been decreased from 100 to 50, and indoor gatherings remain limited at 25. Face coverings must be worn when 10 people from different households gather in one location. Test positive rate, hospitalizations, and testing capacity are all trending in green, or “positive trend”, but deaths, contact tracing, and health care system readiness remain yellow, or “in progress”. As a state, Massachusetts is in the yellow, which means the state is experiencing less than 10 cases per 100,000 people.

Epidemiologists have recommended rolling the state back to Phase 2 in order to reduce community spread to a level that would allow schools to safely reopen. Governor Baker has stated that “three quarters” of the state’s 371 school districts plan to begin the year with some element of in-person learning. About 30 percent of schools plan to return to full in-person learning in September. Boston Public School, however, will begin with 100 percent remote learning and will begin transitioning to a hybrid model on October 1. DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley released a statement to school districts outlining their expectation for staff of schools conducting remote learning to do so from their school buildings and classrooms. The AFT Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, and Massachusetts Teachers Association recently held a rally outside the State House with hundreds of educators, calling for fully remote learning across the state.

As businesses transition to reopening, the state has prepared and distributed a variety of materials for businesses to review and complete, ensuring their compliance with state and public health protocols. These resources can be found at the following links:

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will be hosting weekly conference calls with water suppliers until further notice to address areas of greatest concern, review the available resources, and identify areas where follow-up is required. Recordings of the calls are available for those who cannot attend the live calls. Additionally, Massachusetts water service providers are encouraged to contact their regional MassDEP office and/or EPA contacts for assistance with responses to coronavirus.

New Hampshire

Stay at Home 2.0, an order issued by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, is reopening the economy in a phased approach. This plan was approved unanimously by the Governor’s Reopening Task Force, whose mission is to reopen New Hampshire’s economy “in a manner the protects public health, while limiting the risk of a major resurgence.” Additional industries are granted permission to open with specific protocols as outlined in the Universal Guidelines.

Governor Sununu has also released guidelines for students and faculty returning to schools this fall. These guidelines recommend spacing desks three to six feet apart, keeping desks facing forward, avoiding group seating, conducting daily health screenings of students and faculty, and wearing masks, although they are not required. Schools ultimately have the choice to design their own plans for returning to schooling. New Hampshire’s Department of Education released Grades K-12 Back-to-School Guidelines to assist with this planning.

As people continue to leave their homes for additional activities, the NH Department of Health and Human Services encourages everyone to wear face coverings. The state’s department of Health and Human Services has also released a variety of resources to assist residents with navigating the crisis, including:

Rhode Island

As of July 29, 2020, Governor Raimondo extended Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan to August 28, 2020. All public health guidelines remain in effect with the extension of this phase, but social gathering limits have been decreased from 25 to 15 for both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

In Phase 3, many businesses are able to reopen. This site outlines the guidelines for reopening various sectors. As part of the Reopening Rhode Island initiative, the state has issued a variety of resources and guidelines for residents and businesses to follow:

State officials delayed the start of school by two weeks until September 14, and Governor Raimondo will announce on August 31 whether schools will be able to open for in-person learning. Five metrics have been outlined by state experts to guide school reopening: statewide readiness, municipal readiness, testing readiness, supply readiness and operational readiness. Additionally, any city or town that has more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents would not be allowed to operate full in-person teaching.

Vermont

On August 14, 2020, Vermont Governor Phil Scott issued Addendum 3 to the Amended and Restated Executive Order No 01-20, which extended the state’s state of emergency until September 15, 2020. The previous addendum to this order, which was issued  on July 24, mandates all citizens to wear a face mask or cloth face covering when it’s not possible to maintain six feet of distance outside their household.

Governor Scott also issued a Directive on July 31 that sets the state’s universal date to reopen schools for in-person and remote learning as September 8. This extended open was intended to give schools extra time to prepare for the new school year. School districts are given the responsibility to decide how their schools will conduct teaching, whether fully in-person, hybrid, or fully remote. Vermont’s Agency of Education has guidelines to assist with the transition back to school. Facial coverings will be required indoors and outdoors when six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained. Daily health checks will also be conducted during the cold months.

The Vermont Department of Health issued guidelines for safely connecting with friends and family, and Vermont.gov has also issued reopening guidelines, including:

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News and Resources

NEWEA’s staff and committee members are consistently working to keep our membership, state officials, and the public up-to-date with this unfolding situation. We will continue to publish news and resources that will provide the updates water .professionals need to stay informed and do their jobs most effectively.

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NEWEA Office Updates

In accordance with Massachusetts’ stay at home order, NEWEA Staff will be working remotely until further notice. We are still working to plan our slate of fall specialty conferences and develop new and ongoing initiatives. We are available to support our members as usual during business hours.

Until further notice, please direct all communication to NEWEA staff through email:

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NEWEA Event Updates

In addition to all of the postponed dates listed below, NEIWPCC and NEWWTA have cancelled all Collection Systems certification classes through the month of May. Please refer to our voluntary certification page, as well as NEIWPCC and NEWWTAs‘ websites for more information.

The following event has been cancelled:

  • 2020 Spring Meeting & Exhibit: May 31-June 3, 2020 | Fairlee, VT

The following events have been postponed:

  • Poo & Brew Networking Event – POSTPONED
  • Operations Challenge Facility Tour & Training Day: March 27, 2020 POSTPONED to TDB
  • WEN Young Professionals Event: March 20, 2020 POSTPONED to May 20, 2020

The following events are happening as scheduled:

  • Collection Systems Conference & Exhibit: September 10, 2020 | Boxboro, MA
  • Plant Operations Facility Tour & Technical Session: October 21, 2020 | Uxbridge, MA
  • Northeast Residuals & Biosolids Conference, Exhibit & Tour: October 2020 | Southern, NH
  • ReACT Resiliency Conference & Exhibit: November 19-20, 2020 | Worcester, MA

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Trusted References and Resources

The situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly changing and a lot of information is circulating. The organizations listed below, with links to their COVID-19 informational pages, are trusted sources for developments related to the virus, the latest research, and guidelines for protecting individual and public health.

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General Information

COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It spread worldwide and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020.

COVID-19 largely spreads through close contact between people (closer than 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. People can also contract the virus by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their own mouth, nose, and/or eyes, but it is less likely to spread this way. The virus can spread through infected people who are symptomatic or asymptomatic, which can complicate containing the spread of this virus (Source: CDC).

Most people who contract the virus will expect mild to moderate symptoms, including a cough, fever, and runny nose, but people who are aged 65 years or older, have underlying medical conditions, and/or are immunocompromised are at an increased risk for severe illness (Source: CDC).

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COVID-19 Virus in Water

The COVID-19 virus has not been found in drinking water, and routine treatment processes have been shown to remove and inactivate the virus from water. Although the COVID-19 virus has been detected in the feces of some people infected with COVID-19, it is unknown how much exists in the stool, how long the virus is shed, and if the virus can be transmitted through this route. Still, the CDC has stated that the risk of transmitting COVID-19 through sewers remains low.

Based on data from a previous and similar coronavirus outbreak, the standard municipal wastewater system chlorination practices have been found to be sufficient for inactivating the virus. Standard safety, hygiene, and PPE protocols are also sufficient to protect those who work at water treatment facilities. No COVID-19 specific protocols have been recommended for employees handling wastewater management operations (Source: CDC).

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