22News ‘COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall’ with Massachusetts business and community leaders

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – As Massachusetts launches Phase One of reopening the state, there are plenty of questions about what to expect. To answer some of those questions, 22News brought together members of Massachusetts’ delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, community and business leaders for “COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall” Wednesday, live from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The hour-long virtual Town Hall originated from the WWLP-22News studios in Chicopee, Massachusetts. 22News Anchor Don Shipman hosted the special broadcast.

Viewers were invited to email questions via reportit@wwlp.com. Questions were also sent via social media using the hashtag #22NewsCOVID19.

Guests joined the show virtually in order to abide by social distancing guidelines. They addressed topics such as the current state of the coronavirus in western Massachusetts, unemployment, the phased reopening of the commonwealth, business recovery, education, tourism, as well as answer viewer questions.

The Town Hall included the following guests:

U.S. Congressman Richard Neal (D)

Congressman Richard Neal told 22News that the ‘Heroes Act’ bill includes another round of stimulus payments that is needed now more than ever. The house continues to debate the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package.

“The American people are hurting. For those who suggest we should things on pause. The virus is not on pause. And think we’re trying to take extraordinary measures to try and deal with an international plague.”

CONGRESSMAN RICHARD NEAL

Congressman Neal visited two manufacturing companies in western Massachusetts recently. The Cartamundi Factory in East Longmeadow has transformed their games factory into a PPE producing powerhouse. Also, Excel Dryer in East Longmeadow created a new mobile hand hygiene station to support front line workers at field and drive-thru testing sites.

U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D)

Congressman Jim McGovern held a Town Hall to answer questions focused on the coronavirus pandemic in April. He answered questions from residents ranging from personal protective equipment to the stimulus package.

“Now is not the time to let up, now is the time to double down. We will beat this virus and when we do it will be because of the actions in everyone in our community who are working together to follow CDC guidance and protect their family and friends and look out for one another.”

CONGRESSMAN JIM MCGOVERN

Lawmakers also voted on a rule change that allows some lawmakers to work remotely, a move that McGovern says is vitally important during these unprecedented times. “Across the street, the Supreme Court is conducting business remotely so we ought to be able to adapt to the moment,” McGovern said.


President and CEO of Baystate Health: Dr. Mark Keroack

Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack spoke with 22News about the coronavirus pandemic in early March when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Baystate Medical Center. On March 14th, Dr. Keroack told 22News that the patient was no longer in the hospital, and was recovering at home.

Baystate Health provides 22News a daily update on COVID-19 cases at four of their hospitals. As of Tuesday, Baystate Health has tested a total of 10,870 individuals for COVID-19.

Of those numbers reported, 9,237 have come back negative, 1,584 positives, and 49 are still pending. There are now 77 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, 18 of whom are in critical care units, and 16 hospitalized patients are under investigation for the virus.

Chief Medical Officer of Mercy Medical Center: Dr. Robert Roose

Mercy Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Roose helped effort the partnership with the City of Springfield and Trinity Health New England to provide COVID-19 testing for the homeless population. Testing is also offered to individuals regardless if they have been a patient within the hospital system or not, including children.

First responders across western Massachusetts paid tribute to health care providers at Mercy Medical Center who are on the front lines taking care of COVID-19 patients on April 10th. View the video and photos of the “Tribute Train“.

Trinity Health of New England provides 22News a daily update on COVID-19 cases at ten of their medical facilities, including Mercy Medical Center in Springfield. As of Tuesday, Trinity Health of New England has tested a total of 24,723 individuals for COVID-19.

Of those numbers reported, 17,075 have tested negative for COVID-19, 6,861 are positive, and 787 are still pending.

Both doctors also provide a live summary during the weekly COVID-19 update every Monday at Springfield City Hall. Watch the latest City of Springfield’s response to the coronavirus and clarity on what the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the CDC is advising as precautionary measures.


CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines: Peter Picknelly

Peter Pan Bus Lines has been in operation since 1933. For the first time in the company’s history, services have stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic in April. The services will resume on June 5.

The 80-year-old iconic restaurant, White Hut in West Springfield, abruptly closed to patrons in February. Peter Picknelly and Andy Yee with the Bean Restaurant group announced May 7th, they have finalized their purchase of White Hut and hope to start operating in July.

Peter Pan Bus Lines partnered with local restaurants to support those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. They plan to deliver food from a restaurant everyday by using their buses to make the deliveries with volunteers. Money is being raised for the program on GoFundMe. Help stuff the bus and feed the fight in western Mass.

“We are looking at dozens of restaurant participants, going to all area hospitals, all fire departments, and the rescue house. We are going to continue to do this because it’s the right thing to do.”

PETER PICKNELLY, CEO OF PETER PAN BUS LINES

Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools: Daniel J. Warwick

Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, Daniel Warwick announced the closure of schools on March 12th. They were suppose to reopen on March 30th, but extended to April 7th, then on April 21st, schools were to remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. Remote learning will continue through the last day of school on June 19.

Free grab-n-go breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack are available from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Friday until June 19th. The Friday pick-up also provides meals for the weekend. To find a meal site near you visit the Springfield Public School’s website.

Graduation will be different for Springfield Public Schools Class of 2020 as efforts to protect students, staff and families from COVID-19 continues. Ceremonies for this year’s class will take place virtually in June.

“We are looking forward to creating a virtual graduation that is as traditional as possible, but that also takes advantage of any unique opportunities that technology affords us. We want this to be as special as possible for our graduates.”

DANIEL WARWICK, SUPERINTENDENT OF SPRINGFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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