COVID-19 community updates

Published: 4/9/2020 7:48:42 PM
Modified: 4/9/2020 7:48:30 PM
Church services

First Congregational Church of Hadley is sharing services on Hadley Cable Channel 191, Sundays at 12:30 p.m. The service shown will be from the prior Sunday.

Utilities

Columbia Gas has voluntarily suspended shutoffs for nonpayment and is offering its most flexible payment plans to customers who indicate either an impact or hardship as a result of COVID-19.

There is a variety of socially distant payment options available. You can call, pay online or pay by mail. Remember, with more people at home, utility bills could be higher. Check out the company’s tips to help you save energy. Learn more at ColumbiaGasMA.com/COVID-19.

Customers may qualify for assistance for a number of human services. The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act has allocated additional funding to programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant.

These programs can help individuals and families cover costs related to energy bills, employment, education, transportation, food, housing and more.

Find out if you may be eligible using our the income-eligibility calculator or reach out to your local community action agency for more information.

Employee safety

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to help protect retail workers from exposure to coronavirus.

Safety measures employers can implement to protect employees working in pharmacies, supermarkets, big box stores and other retail establishments include:

■routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment with Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus;

■using a drive-through window or offering curbside pick-up;

■recommending that workers wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus; and

■practicing sensible social distancing, which could include opening only every other cash register, temporarily moving workstations to create more distance and installing plexiglass partitions between workstations.

The new alert is available for download in English and Spanish.

Visit OSHA’s Publications webpage for other useful workplace safety information.

The alert is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America’s workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has also published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a document aimed at helping workers and employers learn about ways to protect themselves and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic.

Visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage frequently for updates. For further information about coronavirus, please visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Smoking and COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Maura Healey and Massachusetts General Hospital issued a warning to the public about the potential increased dangers and risks associated with smoking and vaping for young people and adults.

In an advisory sent to medical professionals, educators, and parent and advocacy groups, AG Healey and MGH warn that smoking or vaping may put people into a higher-risk category, could make COVID-19 infections worse, and may increase the spread of the virus. This is especially concerning for young people because of the epidemic of youth vaping in Massachusetts and across the country.

Healey says that combating the youth vaping crisis has never been more important, and wants the public to understand the heightened risks associated with smoking and vaping during this pandemic.

Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, director of pediatric research at the Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center and Harvard Medical School Professor, says that it is important you do everything you can to keep yourself healthy, and urges anyone smoking or vaping to quit. Quitting during this pandemic could not only save your life, but by preventing the need for treatment in a hospital, you might also save someone else’s life.

Studies show that if a person who smokes catches COVID-19, they are more likely to develop a severe case of the virus than those with no smoking history. Because COVID-19 is easily spread through hand-to-mouth contact, common when using or sharing smoking and vaping products, smoking and vaping could increase the spread of the virus.

Resources for quitting tobacco are also provided in the advisory, like using nicotine patches and gum, pairing smoking cessation medications with expert coaching and support, and using common quit lines for coaching and support, including the National Quit Line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Girls programming revamped

Girls on the Run Western MA is a local nonprofit organization that offers programming that strengthens third- to eighth-grade girls’ social, emotional, physical, and behavioral skills to successfully navigate life experiences. More than 1,000 girls, ages 8 to 13, in 75 schools were registered this spring season in western Massachusetts with 300 trained volunteer coaches ready to coach.

The season usually concludes in a celebratory 5K event which was scheduled to be held at the University of Massachusetts.

With school closures, guidelines on social distancing, and the restrictions around large public events, Girls on the Run Western MA made the decision to transition in-person programming at all sites this spring to virtual programming and events.

Even though the program is unable to gather for lessons or the 5K events, it remains steadfastly committed to providing opportunities for girls to be physically active, emotionally healthy, and engaged with the core values of the programs.

Girls on the Run WMA and other councils across the nation have mobilized three different strategies to drive their mission to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident.

1. GOTR at Home: For existing participants of this disrupted season, they are providing fun and interactive lessons that girls and families can do at home. Home lessons are available in an easy-to-follow written format so girls and their grown-ups can participate together and as a YouTube video series specifically for girls.

2. #GOTRGotYourBack: The goal of this initiative is to provide its audiences with content, resources and activities to support their physical, social and emotional health. While the GOTR at Home program resources are intended only for families of GOTR girls who are currently enrolled, this digital campaign offers alternative tips, activities, and mini Girls on the Run lessons for all families, volunteers, and followers to use and enjoy.

3. One of our core values is finding strength in our connectedness and we are pleased to launch GOTR Connect as a way for our coaches to remain connected with our girls while schools are closed due to COVID-19. This is an optional program will be begin rolling out next week to coaches and participants who are interested in participating.

As a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a world where all girls can know and activate their limitless potential, GOTR WMA relies on program fees to support its operations and ensure all girls in the community can participate. This pandemic has made a significant impact on the organization’s finances, putting the organization at risk of not being able to serve girls in the future with its life-changing programs.

Please consider making a donation to Girls on the Run WMA today to ensure we can continue to inspire generations of girls to activate their limitless potential and be free to boldly pursue their dreams.

GOTR Western MA hosts a fall and spring season and hopes to see all of their participants in the fall.


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