COVID-19 Information for Local Boards of Health

Guidance and recommendations for Massachusetts Local Boards of Health

Table of Contents

Latest Emergency Orders and Guidance

  • Grocery Store Occupancy
  • Coastal Beach Parking Areas
    • An emergency order for all state-managed coastal beach parking areas to be closed to mitigate spread of COVID-19.
  • Hotels and Motels
    • Guidance was issued for hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rental to only be utilized for COVID-19 related efforts, such as housing front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been otherwise displaced from their residences.
  • Stay-At-Home Advisory will remain in effect. 
  • An emergency order prohibiting most gatherings of over 10 people in an effort to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.
  • Nonessential businesses and organizations to close their physical workspaces and facilities to customers, workers and the public.
  • An emergency order extending the closure of all public and private schools, and all non-emergency childcare programs, until May 4.
  • A new order to support pharmacies and grocery stores and their employees during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This order will require grocery stores and pharmacies to provide at least one hour per day of shopping for adults over 60-years-old.

View all COVID-19 State of Emergency Orders.

MAVEN

For a list of COVID-19 documents for case investigation/follow-up and other helpful tips:

  • Visit MAVEN Online Help to view the documents.
  • For specific questions around case investigation and follow-up, call 617-983-6800 and speak to an on-call (24/7) epidemiologist.
  • For requesting a MAVEN user account, please email the request to isishelp@state.ma.us.

Resources for Communicating with the Public

Many resources are available for local boards of health to educate residents. These include:

Resources for Coping with Stress during COVID-19 Outbreak

Visual Communication Tool

View the visual communication too for the deaf and hard of hearing individuals or those who do not speak English.

Preparedness Resources

DPH’s Infectious Disease Emergency Response (IDER) Plan PDF | Doc describes DPH’s operations for an infectious disease emergency response, outlines  roles and responsibilities, and details the procedures and the coordination among and across responding agencies to ensure an effective operation.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster, including disease outbreaks like COVID-19.

Stay Informed

  • Social Media
    • @MassDPH: follow and retweet DPH on Twitter, updated several times per day
    • Subscribe to MassGovernor YouTube page for latest video updates and press releases
  • Get text updates about COVID-19 in Massachusetts sent to your phone by texting COVIDMA to 888-777.
  • Massachusetts 2-1-1 - Massachusetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19. Operators are staffing this hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. Residents with questions can dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone or use the live chat option on the Mass 2-1-1 website
  • Visit www.mass.gov/covid19 for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

On March 10, 2020, Governor Charles D. Baker declared a State of Emergency in the Commonwealth to respond to the spread of COVID-19.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Department) provides these answers to frequently asked questions from local boards of health (LBOH) regarding the following Department regulations during the State of Emergency:

The State Sanitary Code (M.G.L. c. 111, §127A)

Housing (105 CMR 410)

Must LBOH conduct all inspections pursuant to the housing code?

Given the State of Emergency, the LBOH has discretion to delay non-emergency inspections. Inspections should resume as normal at the termination of the State of Emergency.

Food Establishments (105 CMR 590)

Must LBOH conduct all inspections pursuant to the retail food code?

A LBOH has discretion to decrease the frequency of food inspections under the retail food code. (105 CMR 590.008(H); FC 8-401.10.) During the declared State of Emergency, LBOH are not required to submit a risk-based facility inspection plan for approval. The Food Protection Program will provide technical assistance to review any emergency inspection plans for LBOH, upon request.

What steps should food establishments take to minimize the spread of COVID-19?

Food establishments must ensure that social distancing recommendations are followed in their establishment. Any restaurant, bar, or establishment that offers food or drink shall not permit on-premises consumption of food or drink, in accordance with the Governor’s March 23, 2020 Order.  Such establishments that are otherwise properly licensed to do so may continue to offer food for take-out and by delivery, provided that they follow social distancing protocols that allow individuals to stay 6 feet apart.

Many of the things that help prevent colds and the flu can also help protect against other respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. Most of these recommendations are the same for food establishments as they are for the general public: ensuring employees wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; cleaning both food contact and non-food contact surfaces frequently; and ensuring that employees stay home if sick.

Food employees should limit contact with the public, remain 6 feet away where possible, and wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds after handling money or other forms of payment from each customer and before assisting another customer.

May take-out food be eaten at restaurant's outside seating area?            

No. Governor Baker’s March 23, 2020 Order and the Commissioner of Public Health’s guidance prohibit on-premise consumption of take-out food; Under the Retail Food Code, premises include outside dining areas and eat-in areas of stores.

Should LBOH allow self-serve salad bars and buffets to operate?

By regulation, consumer self-service operations such as buffets and salad bars must be monitored at all times by food employees trained in safe operating procedures. All food must be protected from customer handling, coughing, sneezing or other contamination by wrapping, the use of food shields or other effective barriers. In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, restaurants and other retail food establishments, including grocery stores, are strongly recommended to eliminate buffets and self-serve salad and hot bars until the State of Emergency is lifted or until further notice. Condiments must be dispensed in single-service type packaging.

What should establishments use to clean and sanitize?

All food contact surfaces, equipment, and utensils used for the preparation, packaging, or handling of food products must be washed, rinsed, and sanitized before each use. Additionally, food establishments are strongly urged to frequently clean non-food contact surfaces, such as doorknobs, tabletops, chairs and menus.  The EPA has a list of registered sanitizers labeled for use against the novel coronavirus. Note: There may be additional disinfectants that meet the criteria and EPA will update the list as needed. If you have questions about your particular sanitizer, please carefully read the package label or reach out to your chemical provider for more information.

When disinfecting for coronavirus, EPA recommends following the product label use directions for enveloped viruses, as indicated by the approved emerging viral pathogen claim on the master label. If the directions for use for viruses/viricidal activity list different contact times or dilutions, use the longest contact time or most concentrated solution. Be sure to follow the label directions for FOOD CONTACT SURFACES when using the chemical near or on utensils and food contact surfaces.

Additional information about using disinfectants for COVID-19 is available from the National Pesticide Information Center.

Swimming Pools (105 CMR 435)

Should swimming pools be closed?

Governor Baker’s March 23, 2020 Order requires non-essential workplaces to be closed until April 7, 2020 at noon. Swimming pools are not considered to be essential services and must be closed.

With the need to cancel certified pool operator (CPO) classes will the State be providing leniency or an extension for those that can’t renew their CPO before pool season?

This is a developing situation and the state is working to provide information and guidance as it becomes available. DPH will be reviewing impacts to licensed entities, including CPOs, and making recommendations. Any changes to orders and directives will be communicated by the Governor and made available at mass.gov/covid19

What are requirements for addressing steam rooms and saunas in line with COVID19 concerns?

The Department does not regulate steam rooms and saunas. However, Governor Baker’s March 23, 2020 Order requires non-essential workplaces to be closed until April 7, 2020 at noon. Steam rooms and saunas operated as a business are not considered to be essential services and must be closed. All persons are urged to maintain social distancing, which includes staying six feet away from each other, whenever possible.

Tobacco and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Sales (105 CMR 665)

Must LBOH conduct all tobacco retail inspections at this time?

Given the State of Emergency, the LBOH has discretion to delay non-emergency inspections. Inspections should resume as normal at the termination of the State of Emergency.

The Lead Law (M.G.L. c. 111, §189A-199B)

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention (105 CMR 460)

Must LBOH conduct code enforcement lead determinations pursuant to the childhood lead poisoning prevention regulations?

Given the State of Emergency, the LBOH has discretion to delay parental requests for lead determination inspections. Inspections should resume as normal at the termination of the State of Emergency. Please provide families with information on temporary hazard reduction methods found at Learn about short-term habits to keep your child safe from lead.

Must LBOH code enforcement determinators issue or enforce Orders to Correct pursuant to the childhood lead poisoning prevention regulations?

Given the State of Emergency and Governor Baker’s March 23, 2020 order for non-COVID-19 essential services to close until April 7, LBOH has the discretion to temporarily suspend orders to begin high or moderate risk deleading work. Please provide families with information on temporary hazard reduction methods found at Learn about short-term habits to keep your child safe from lead.

If the LBOH is aware of a situation where a family cannot return home because of a delayed reoccupancy reinspection, please contact Terry Howard 857-507-7191, Lorraine Simbliaris at 617-719-1873, or Errol Campbell at 617-655-3416.

For existing Orders, many Housing Courts are allowing continuances of probable cause hearings via e-file or over the phone.

Must LBOH respond to a complaint of unsafe deleading, unsafe renovation, or repair of painting?

For homes built before 1978, CLPPP recommends that LBOH’s conduct site visits for complaints about unsafe deleading or renovation work. Gross contamination, visible dust, paint chips, and debris caused by unsafe work can pose an immediate danger to the occupants of the home. LBOH’s can also contact Terry Howard at 857-507-7191, Lorraine Simbliaris at 617-719-1873, or Errol Campbell at 617-655-3416 for guidance as well as Department of Labor Standards at Deleading and lead safety.

Campgrounds (105 CMR 440)

Can RV parks or campgrounds stay open if they are open year-round for housing?

Yes. Under the Governor’s Orders and guidance on essential services, people who own or lease space in campgrounds or RV parks that are open year-round may continue living there, and those facilities may remain open.

Can family-type campgrounds, including RV Parks, that operate seasonally for recreational purposes operate as an essential service?

No.  RV parks and campgrounds that operate seasonally for primarily recreational use are not essential businesses under the Governor’s Orders and guidance on essential services.​

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