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Daily News

Daily News

BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index recorded the largest monthly drop in its history during March as the COVID-19 pandemic unraveled the global economy.

Confidence dropped 21.9 points to 40.2 on a 100-point scale, moving the reading into pessimistic territory (below 50.0) for the first time since October 2013. The largest monthly decline in confidence prior to last month took place in October 1998, when the Index dropped 9.6 points.

Business confidence in Massachusetts now stands 19.1 points below its level of March 2019 and just seven points higher than its nadir during the recession of 2009.

The confidence decline reflects the continued idling of vast swaths of the global economy as health officials work to stem to spread of the novel coronavirus. Members of the AIM Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) say the March results are not surprising at a time when experts believe the U.S. economy will contract by more than 5% in 2020.

“The unprecedented one-month erosion of business confidence represents the unique set of circumstances that have changed almost every aspect of life during the past month,” said Raymond Torto, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and BEA chair. “Massachusetts companies are trying to map out their futures in the face of government orders to cease operations and the uncertainty of forces beyond the scope of traditional economic models.”

The constituent indicators that make up the Business Confidence Index were all down. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth fell 29.5 points to 36.3, leaving it 25.4 points lower than in February 2019. The U.S. Index lost 20 points to 31.9.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, declined 18.1 points to 43.7, a year-over-year slide of 24.6 points. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, lost 25.8 points to 36.6.

The Employment Index was down 12.2 points in March and 10.5 points for the year. The Employment Index had lagged the overall business-confidence reading for several years amid a persistent shortage of workers.

“The Baker administration deserves tremendous credit for managing through a pandemic crisis with no easy answers,” said John Regan, CEO of AIM. “State government has made good-faith and transparent efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, secure appropriate equipment for frontline medical workers, and, with the help of federal programs and resources, establish financial backstops for companies and workers alike. It will be a great day when we can all get back to business as usual.”

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield have introduced the Good Morning Heroes program, a joint effort to give back to the first responders working hard and risking their lives for our community.

Good Morning Heroes will provide grab-and-go breakfast bags to Springfield first responders. They will be available on weekdays, 8-9 a.m. or until the bags run out, in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield parking lot on Carew Street. The program will run from Friday, April 10 until Monday, May 4, coinciding with Gov. Charlie Baker’s stay-at-home order.

In doing so, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield and the United Way of Pioneer Valley are working together to show appreciation to the workers keeping people safe and healthy every day, especially now, during this unprecedented global pandemic.

For more information or to volunteer, e-mail Vinny Borello at [email protected].

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Peter Pan Bus Lines​ and the Bean Restaurant Group​ are teaming up deliver lunch to first responders and frontline workers on a Peter Pan bus. The mission is to show support and gratitude to local healthcare heroes while supporting local restaurants. The first delivery will take place Wednesday, April 8, with food provided by Frigo’s.

To donate to the campaign, click here or visit peterpanbus.com/stuff-the-bus-feed-the-fight-western-mass.

COVID-19 Daily News

HOLYOKE — Providence Ministries will continue to offer essential support services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, Executive Director Shannon Rudder shared precautions being made to ensure continuity of services while protecting program participants.

Effective immediately, the following program shifts will occur: Kate’s Community Kitchen will provide warm, nutritious takeout meals; dining-room services will be suspended until further notice. Margaret’s Pantry will continue to welcome those in need of supplemental groceries to enjoy its community services. This includes both monthly guests along with anyone impacted by loss of work or simply realizing greater need at this time. Make an appointment by calling Brenda at (413) 536-9109, ext. 119. St. Jude’s Clothing Center will be closed until further notice to contain exposure, while the foodWorks culinary-training program will suspend current classes until further notice; the April 1 graduation will be rescheduled.

Providence is taking every precaution to ensure its single-room-occupancy recovery housing spaces maintain cleanliness and overall health. It is difficult to ensure a true quarantine due to shared spaces, such as bathrooms and kitchens. At Loreto House, residents will suspend weekend passes and all planned workshops, no general public will be allowed entrance, a daily temperature check has been instituted, and any resident presenting symptoms and fever will be sent to the hospital or their primary-care provider. At both Broderick House and McCleary Manor, no outside visitors or overnight guests are permitted. No new residents will be admitted to any of these houses during this time. Each home has adequate cleaning products and hand soaps. Volunteers are asked to exercise caution and use their best judgement to continue in their service.

COVID-19 Daily News

AMHERST — Adhering to recommendations made by Gov. Charlie Baker, Big Brothers Big Sisters will host the 10th annual Daffodil 5K Run/Walk and 10K Run as a virtual event on Sunday, April 26, instead of the Amherst Town Common, its original location. Still a festive, family-friendly event, registrants will choose their own 5K or 10K course, document their participation, and tune in for a celebratory livestream broadcast from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the date of the event.

“The response from the community since the announcement of a virtual event has been overwhelmingly heartwarming. And now, people across the country are signing up to participate,” said Jessie Cooley, director of CHD’s Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County (BBBSHC).

The Daffodil Run is the largest annual fundraiser for CHD’s Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County and provides vital funds for its mentoring programs. “BBBSHC inspires resilience and leadership among the youth we serve,” said Claudia Pazmany, advisory board president and executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. “Going digital with this year’s 10th annual Daffodil Run, a cherished Amherst tradition, inspires the same in all of us at a time when we need to be in community the most. Our 150 big/little matches are depending on you in the midst of this global emergency.”

For more information and to register for the race, visit www.daffodilrun.com.

COVID-19 Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has welcomed 40 Holyoke Soldiers’ Home residents in response to a request for assistance from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. In order to accommodate this request, the Birthing Center and the outpatient Cardiovascular Center at HMC have been converted to house these residents.

Holyoke Medical Center maternity patients will temporarily be delivering at the Family Life Center at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield. The outpatient Cardiovascular Center has also been temporarily relocated to 2 Hospital Dr., Suite 203, Holyoke.

“We were asked if we could accommodate Soldiers’ Home residents in our facility and are responding to the request to assist in any way we possibly can,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems. “These are unprecedented times, and we have a duty to help any and all that need our assistance and an additional level of duty to assist our veterans.”

The Soldiers’ Home residents transferred to Holyoke Medical Center have screened negative for COVID-19.

“This request has been an opportunity for the staff at Holyoke Medical Center to once again shine,” Hatiras added. “I am incredibly proud of their efficiency and dedication to rise to any occasion, including their ability to convert two patient units within hours, accommodating 40 people to receive care.”

The Holyoke Medical Group obstetrics doctors and certified nurse midwives will be closely coordinating with their colleagues at Mercy Medical Center to maintain continuity of care for their patients while temporarily delivering at this alternate location.

Questions regarding labor and delivery through the Birthing Center can be directed to the outpatient office, Holyoke Medical Group Women’s Services, at (413) 534-2826. For questions regarding the Family Life Center at Mercy Medical Center, call (413) 748-7400.

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — While concern for staff, client, and volunteer health during the COVID-19 pandemic recently forced Northampton Survival Center to temporarily stop client visits to pick up food, the center anticipates resuming modified operations as soon as possible. In the meantime, even though the building is closed, the work continues, with new community partnerships and initiatives springing into action, said Heidi Nortonsmith, executive director.

The center has teamed up with Community Action Pioneer Valley to begin distributing food out of Jackson Street School, a nearby location with ample, circular parking and cafeteria and refrigeration capabilities. Beginning on April 6, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, food will be delivered by the Survival Center to the school, where a team of trained personnel will be able to create pre-bagged packages of nutritious food while maintaining safe distancing and other health precautions. On those same afternoons, bags will be carted outdoors under a tent, for quick drive-up intake and food transfer to clients safely in their cars.

Another initiative between the Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton will begin on April 7, with fresh produce and groceries being delivered every Tuesday to high-need sites including Hampshire Heights, Florence Heights, Meadowbrook, and the Lumber Yard on Pleasant Street. Food distribution at all four sites will work in tandem with the Northampton public-school system and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s new meal-delivery program for children, in order to amplify each other’s efforts to keep children and their entire families fed. Shelf-stable groceries will be paired with fresh produce purchased directly from local farms, as well as produce and other goods purchased from distributors via River Valley Co-op.

With this partnership, in the words of Grow Food Northampton Executive Director Alisa Klein, “we are floating all boats higher and doing exactly what just, successful food systems should do — make the connection between local farmers and the people who need fresh, healthy food the most because of a lack of access, financially and otherwise.”

To serve clients in the hilltowns, food is being brought from the Hilltown Pantry and Northampton Survival Center to the various Councils on Aging that serve the region. COAs in Chesterfield, Worthington, and Goshen have already begun distributing this food from their sites, and further outreach is being coordinated with the Hilltown Community Health Center and the Hilltown Community Development Corp. The center is exploring using a school classroom in Worthington as a mini-pantry, and fresh produce has been shared with the Maples senior housing in Worthington.

Eggs from Northampton Survival Center have been shared with the MANNA hot meal program, and fresh produce and retail donations of bread and other items usually reserved for the center are now being shared with other food pantries in the area, via the center’s partners at the Food Bank.

“These are just a few of the first directions taking shape,” Nortonsmith said. “Please know that we continue to work on the front lines of providing food security to our neighbors in need. The form will be different for a while, as so much around the world has been turned on its head. But our hearts and hands are still in this, and we’re working with great and good leaders across the Valley to do our part. Thank you for being part of our team and cheering us on.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Women Empowered, a group that strives to promote body positivity and acceptance for both adult women and future generations of girls, has donated $2,500 in proceeds of its Women Empowered calendar sales to Girls Inc. of the Valley. The receipt of this gift will support Girls Inc. of the Valley’s current research-based program offerings designed to empower girls, and will provide a boost in its annual fundraising efforts.

“The mission of Women Empowered is to help expand and challenge our society’s limited standards of beauty,” said Michelle Crean, founder of Women Empowered. “We have chosen to have all proceeds from the sale of the calendars go to Girls Inc. of the Valley because their mission of making all girls strong, smart, and bold aligns with our mission.”

The Women Empowered calendar features a diverse group of everyday women who have embraced their uniqueness, have overcome physical and mental obstacles, celebrate their bodies, and want to share their story to inspire others. This calendar provides the chance to send a message of body positivity and acceptance in order to teach other women and future generations to embrace the totality of who they are, and use their gifts, their beauty, and their stories to change the world. Everyone involved with the production of the calendar and all sponsors are women-owned businesses.

COVID-19 Daily News

MONSON — Baystate Health has just completed construction of a rapid-response triage area outside of the Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department, allowing the hospital to better protect patients and medical staff from exposure to the virus as patients are being screened and tested.

This new triage area is just one of the many large, unplanned expenses this health emergency has created. Additionally, the exploding demand for personal protection equipment for staff and myriad other needs to fight this outbreak are stretching resources and finances to the limit.

Monson Savings Bank has donated $25,000 to Baystate’s Greatest Needs Fund. This gift will directly support resources needed at Baystate Health as it continues to address and prepare for the care the community needs during this worldwide pandemic.

“At a time like this, our hearts go out to the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff who are the front line in our fight against this terrible virus,” bank President Steve Lowell said. “We hope that this donation will help them and show that our community thanks them for their valiant efforts.”

COVID-19 Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Adam Berman, president of JGS Lifecare, issued a statement to update the community regarding COVID-19, which has infected 29 residents of Leavitt Family Jewish Home.

“JGS Lifecare is committed to doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our residents and staff,” he said. “We strictly maintain and follow effective infection control procedures as mandated by state and federal regulations and have made many additional changes, including institutng a no-visitor policy to reduce the risk of infection.

“Up until early this week, we had a few isolated cases in which residents and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in the Jewish Nursing Home. In all cases, we took aggressive steps to quarantine anyone with close contact. Residents who tested positive were transferred to an isolation unit and cared for by a separate and dedicated care team. Staff members with symptoms were asked to remain at home and self-quarantine.

“Beginning this week, we proactively began the process of testing our residents throughout the facility. Late last night and early this morning, we were notified by the lab that we have 29 residents in our facility who tested positive with COVID-19. Some are experiencing only mild symptoms, and many more are stable and showing signs of recovery.

“We are working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Longmeadow Fire Department, and other local authorities to take all possible actions to protect our residents, staff, and community. Any resident with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is being moved into our isolation unit and treated by a designated COVID care team. We will also continue to perform tests on all our residents until we feel confident we have firm control of the situation.

“To help our clinical staff remain focused on taking care of our residents, we have created a robust communications team. This team has been directly contacting the families of all our residents several times a week to keep them informed. To protect resident confidentiality, we are only able to speak to designated family members and have asked them to more broadly communicate with other interested parties if appropriate.

“We understand that this is a stressful time for everyone,” Berman concluded. “We will continue to work hard to serve our mission of providing the best-quality care for our residents and full support for all our families.”

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