COVID-19 Update #7 From Representative Dykema

“Stay at Home” Advisory Ordered

Due to evolving spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, Governor Baker has directed the Department of Public Health to issue a stay at home advisory. Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary activities for two-week time period beginning tomorrow at noon and ending April 7 at noon. Residents over 70 years of age or with underlying health conditions, who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19, should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible.

The Baker administration also issued an order relative to essential services and workplaces has released a detailed list of workers and services considered essential: COVID-19 Essential Services List

Businesses with questions can email covid19.biz@mass.gov and businesses not covered under the order can request “essential” designation through an online form.

Essential services include (but are not limited to):

  • Health care
  • Public safety
  • Public works and energy
  • Grocery and pharmacy services
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture

Although Massachusetts residents are not confined to their homes, gatherings of over 10 people are prohibited and residents, particularly high-risk individuals, are encouraged to stay at home and limit non-essential travel and social interactions.

Other Updates as of March 23rd

Below is a summary of the most recent efforts to respond to the wide range of needs in our communities. For a summary of previously issued guidance and state restrictions related to the coronavirus epidemic, visit mass.gov/coronavirus. For previous updates visit carolyndykema.com/covid19.

Coronavirus Testing and Response

  • There are 777 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 79 individuals having been hospitalized. Massachusetts has a total of 9 deaths from coronavirus as of 3/23.
  • 8,922 tests have been conducted by the State Public Health Laboratory and 11 private testing organizations – a significant increase that reflects a large effort on the part of the state and private entities to increase testing capacity for Massachusetts residents.

Workforce, Employment, and Housing

  • The Department of Unemployment Assistance continues to offer online and call-in Town Hall meetings to assist workers filing unemployment benefits as a result of COVID-19. You can sign up to participate here.
  • Here is the list of childcare facilities open statewide to care only children of essential services. Services are only available for emergency, back-up, drop-in care. Priority will be given to people including but are not limited to: health care workers, essential state and human service workers, COVID-19 health workers, grocery store employees, emergency response personnel, law enforcement, transportation and infrastructure workers, sanitation workers, DCF-involved families, and families living in shelters. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, all families should keep children out of group care settings to the greatest extent possible.
  • The Metropolitan Area Planning Council has created a resource page for municipalities dealing with COVID-19 response. As our region’s planning authority, MAPC plays an important role in coordinating cities and towns’ efforts to support economic development and municipal coordination during this challenging time.
  • State legislation is being considered to provide protections for evictions and foreclosures as a result of coronavirus impacts.

Agriculture:

  • The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has launched a COVID-19 response page for all agriculture workers that provides information and resources relative to food safety, farmers’ markets, and animal care.

Transportation:

  • Most MBTA service is running on Saturday schedules every day of the week during the state of emergency, an effort to balance dramatically lower ridership, maintaining some options for workers, and the need to ensure riders are not too close together on board trains and buses.
  • Beginning March 25, essential morning service is being restored on the Haverhill, Fitchburg, Lowell, Needham and Newburyport/Rockport Lines to ensure that emergency and health care workers are able to get to work on time.
  • For a full summary of the MBTA’s efforts to respond to COVID-19, see today’s report from the General Manager to the Fiscal and Management Control Board

Federal Actions

  • An estimated $1.08 billion in Medicaid will be directed to Massachusetts in the recently-passed federal coronavirus stimulus package. This package included a 6.2% increase in the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid.
  • The full Massachusetts congressional delegation urged the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to include funding for Community Development Block Grants in any additional coronavirus stimulus package. This funding helps mayors and local governments throughout Massachusetts provide vital services to their communities, and private matching allows each dollar of federal spending to generate over $4 in total local investment.

Other Items of Interest

  • The Massachusetts Legislature passed S.2608 today, which empowers cities and towns to postpone municipal caucuses and elections scheduled between now and May 30 to a date no later than June 30. It also provides for increased notification, registration, and absentee/mail-in voting. Read the bill here.
  • With Court operations limited in response to COVID-19, Chief Justice Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court asked the legal community to approach getting through the public health crisis by asking the Massachusetts bar to “work with our courts to figure out how we can find new ways to protect the most vulnerable, preserve individual rights, resolve disputes, and somehow keep the wheels of justice turning in the midst of this frightening pandemic.” Currently, the Supreme Judicial Court is working to limit in-person proceedings to only emergencies that can’t be handled over the phone or through a videoconference.

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