COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates
Page last updated December 15, 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
- News and Resources
- NEWEA Office Updates
- NEWEA Event Updates
- Trusted References and Resources
- General Information
- COVID-19 Virus in Water
New England Updates (As of December 15, 2020)
Due to a surge in the number of cases, Connecticut rolled back from Phase 3 to Phase 2.1, effective November 6, 2020. This is a modified version of Phase 2, which implemented a 10:00 PM curfew for dine-in restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues, and indoor and outdoor events at commercial venues. Additionally, restaurant capacity was reduced from 75% to 50% with a limit of eight people per table, social gathering limits were decreased from 25 to 10 for indoor gatherings and 150 to 10 for outdoor gatherings, and companies were encouraged to allow telework whenever possible.
Businesses that are open and operating are still 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.
Connecticut has received the vaccine and administered the first doses to Hartford HealthCare’s Dr. Ajay Kumar, executive vice president and chief clinical officer, and Keith Grant, director of infectious diseases and an advance practical registered nurse (APRN), on December 14. The state received 31,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will begin administering it to hospitals and long-term care facilities. The phases of vaccine distribution can be found on CT.gov.
Phase 4 of Restarting Maine’s Economy plan began on October 13, 2020. The plan was adjusted on November 1, 2020 based on rising cases throughout the state and nationwide. As of November 4, 2020, the limit on indoor gatherings was reduced to 50. The limit for gyms remained at 50, outdoor gatherings limits remained at 100, the limit of 5 people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space remained in place for retailers, and the opening of indoor seating service for bars and tasting rooms was postponed.
On November 5, 2020, Governor Mills instated a mask mandate that required Maine residents to always wear a mask in public spaces, regardless of ability to physically distance from one another. This strengthened a previous mandate that only required masks when physical distancing wasn’t possible. Governor Mills also extended Maine’s State of Civil Emergency until December 23, allowing the state to continue to draw on federal resources and deploy tools to respond to and contain COVID. The mandate requiring all outdoor and indoor amusement venues, movie theaters, performing arts venues, casinos, and businesses that provide seated food and drink service, including social clubs, restaurants, and bars and tasting rooms to close at 9:00 PM, which was originally issued on November 19, was extended until January 3, 2021.
The first vaccine doses were administered at Maine Medical Center on December 15. State officials anticipate vaccinating more than 50,000 Maine residents by Christmas. Maine Center for Disease Control’s four-phase vaccination plan largely follows the recommendations of the US CDC, with front-line medical workers getting priority.
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.
Massachusetts rolled back to Phase 3 Step 1, effective December 13, 2020. This was announced by the Baker-Polito administration in response to a surge of cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. This rollback reduced capacity limits in a variety of indoor venues, including retail stores, gyms, offices, libraries, golf facilities, driving schools, places of worship, movie theaters, and museums, from 50 percent to 40 percent. Outdoor gatherings at venues are now limited to 50 people and private gatherings of more than 25 people must alert their local health board. This also introduced new limitations for offices, restaurants, and gyms, including a 90-minute dining time limit and a six person per table limit in restaurants; requirements for all gym patrons to wear a mask at all times; and closing workplace break rooms and promoting telework whenever possible.
Individual cities and towns, including Boston, Arlington, Brockton, Lynn, Somerville, and Newton, rolled back even further than the state, to a modified Phase 2, Step 2. Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh announced a three week closure of industries including gyms, indoor event spaces, indoor recreational and athletic facilities (excluding college sports), sightseeing, and historical locations.
Boston Medical Center received the first vaccines in Massachusetts on December 14, with other hospitals expected to receive shipments on December 15. The first waves of doses will be administered to front line workers in the ICU, emergency department, and on COVID units beginning on December 16. A three-phase plan, announced by Governor Baker, will guide the administration of vaccines to Massachusetts residents in the coming months.
Governor Baker announced an order on November 6, 2020 that requires residents to wear a mask in all public places, whether indoors or outdoors and even if physical distancing is possible. Additionally, 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:
- COVID-19 Control Plan Template (all businesses are required to have a written control plan to track how they’re adhering to reopening protocols)
- Compliance Attestation Checklist (businesses are encouraged to complete this checklist and display it prominently within their business, demonstrating to employees and visitors that the appropriate measures are being followed)
- Mandatory Safety Standards for the Workplace
- Outdoor Recreation Facility Restroom Cleaning Best Practices
- Resources for Purchasing Hygienic or Protective Supplies for the Workplace
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will be hosting monthly 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. MADEP also put together a comprehensive document to address FAQs for Wastewater Service Providers.
New Hampshire continues to adhere to its Stay at Home 2.0, an order issued by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu to reopen 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 announced a state-wide mask mandate on November 19, 2020, effective November 20, 2020 until January 15, 2021. This mandate requires that all residents over the age of five must wear a mask over their mouth and nose in indoor or outdoor public spaces, regardless of if physical distancing can be maintained.
The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in New Hampshire on December 14. The first batch of vaccines for the state will include 12,675 doses. Those at the highest risk for contracting COVID, namely health care workers, first responders, and people associated with long-term care facilities, will be in phase 1a to receive the vaccine. The state will continue to rollout the vaccine in a four-phase approach.
The state’s department of Health and Human Services has also released a variety of resources to assist residents with navigating the crisis, including:
- Tips for Staying Healthy and Covering a Cough
- Tips on Physical Distancing
- Explanation of Public Health Monitoring and Movement Restriction Terms
- Civil Rights, HIPAA, and the Coronavirus Disease 2019
Rhode Island’s Phase 3 entered a three week pause, effective November 30 until December 20, 2020, in an effort to contain the rising cases and hospitalizations. During this pause, in-person college and universities, in-person gyms and recreation centers, bar areas, and recreation venues are closed; retail, houses of worship, indoor dining, and in-person high school is limited; and health care, child care, in person PreK-8 schooling, personal services, and manufacturing and construction are open. Social gatherings have been limited to one household, including when indoor dining.
Christian Arbelaez, the vice chair of academic affairs at Brown Emergency Medicine, received the first vaccine administered in Rhode Island on December 14. Thus far, Rhode Island Hospital, Newport Hospital, Women and Infants Hospital, and Southcoast Health have had vaccines delivered. Healthcare workers will receive the vaccine first as part of Phase 1a in the state’s three-phase approach.
Additionally, as part of the Reopening Rhode Island initiative, the state has issued a variety of resources and guidelines for residents and businesses to follow:
- COVID-19 Control Plan: Template (businesses must have a written plan to detail how they will prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.)
- Rules to keep you safe at work
- Advisory regarding face coverings and cloth face masks
- Workplace Fact Sheet
On November 13, 2020 Governor Scott issued Addendum 8 to Amended and Restated Executive Order No. 01-20, which extended Vermont’s state of emergency, suspended multi-household gatherings, instated a limit on restaurant seating and hours, closed bars and social clubs, and required all non-essential activities to maintain a log of all employees, customers, members and guests and their contact information to assist with contact tracing when necessary. A mask mandate has been in effect since August 1, 2020, which requires Vermonters and visitors to wear a mask or cloth face covering in all indoor and outdoor public spaces when physical distancing is not possible and when coming in contact with people from other households.
The first shipment of vaccines arrived in Vermont on December 14, 2020. The Vermont Department of Health will receive weekly shipments of 5,850 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine through December. High risk health care workers and first responders will be the first to receive the vaccine as members of Phase 1a in the four-phase vaccination plan.
Additionally, the Vermont Department of Health issued guidelines for safely connecting with friends and family, and Vermont.gov has also issued reopening guidelines, including:
- Assistance for Municipalities
- New work safe guidelines under the Be Smart/Stay Safe order
- Signage for Reopening
- Reopening Training Plans
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.
- The City Of Burlington, Vermont Leverages Innovative Wastewater-Based Epidemiology Program To Stop The Spread Of COVID-19
- EPA’s Water Utility COVID-19 Financial Impact Tool, created to assist utilities with assessing how the COVID-19 pandemic financially impacted the utility and its cashflow.
- Water Utilities’ COVID-19 Challenges and Request for Assistance for Regulators and Elected Officials
- COVID-19: Implications for the Water and Wastewater Industry
- WEF’s letter to House and Senate leadership and online request to include funding for water infrastructure in any Coronavirus economic recovery package.
- Letter from the EPA Administrator to Governors asking that water and wastewater employees, as well as those in associated industries, be declared essential workers.
- Sample letters from the Los Angeles and Orange County Sanitation Districts to vendors and suppliers, which highlight the importance of vendor and suppliers’ continued operations during this critical time.
- COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program
- University of Minnesota’s Guide on Wastewater and COVID-19
- NEWEA Office Update: March 16, 2020
NEWEA Office Updates
NEWEA Staff will be working remotely until further notice. We are available to support our members as usual during business hours.
Until further notice, please direct all communication to NEWEA staff through email:
- Mary Barry, Executive Director
- Janice Moran, Program Director
- Jordan Gosselin, Communication/PR Coordinator
- Heather Howard, Office Administrator
NEWEA Event Updates
The following events have been shifted to virtual:
- Annual Conference & Exhibit: January 26 and 28, February 2 and 4, 2021
- Innovation Pavilion: January 27 and February 3, 2021
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.
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Water Environment Federation
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).
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).