COVID-19 Update #8 From Representative Dykema

Reminder: “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 that began at 12pm Tuesday. Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary activities for two-week time period 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.

New Updates as of March 24th

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 1,159 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 94 hospitalizations and 11 deaths as of today. Confirmed case numbers are expected to rise as testing capacity increases.
  • 13,749 tests have been conducted by the State Public Health Laboratory and 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. Nearly 5,000 tests have been conducted in the last 24 hours alone.
  • There have been 89 deliveries of supplies so far from the federal stockpile. Over 750,000 items were delivered to DPH, which is responsible for delivering needed supplies to Massachusetts hospitals.

Health Care

  • The need for personal protective equipment (PPE) among frontline health care workers remains critical, and state officials continue to urge all members of the public not experiencing symptoms to not employ PPE for personal use unless it is in compliance with the state guidance for prioritization of equipment.
  • For businesses who are able to produce or supply PPE, testing equipment, or other essential health care supplies, MassBio continues to solicit supply donations online.
  • DPH has released a new messaging tool called called “AlertsMA” will allow residents to subscribe to real-time notifications by texting the keyword COVIDMA to 888-777.  After signing up, state and public health officials can send short messages and links to information directly to a resident’s cell phone or other mobile device.
  • The Governor has ordered that telehealth services be covered and insurance carriers cannot limit the requirements. Providers can also use telephonic options if they are unsure their internet connection is secure. For reference, please see the Executive Order relative to telehealth coverage. Behavioral health providers using telehealth will follow all normal billing procedures
     

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.
  • All individuals in need can apply to the Department of Transitional Assistance for additional income-determined benefits online. A full guide to DTA resources during the COVID-19 pandemic is available here.
  • The Associated Industries of Massachusetts held a webinar for employers to provide guidance for dealing with COVID-19-related challenges. The full video webinar is available online.
  • The Department of Public Utilities has issued an order prohibiting all utility companies from shutting off gas, electric, or water service throughout the duration of the crisis.

Transportation:

  • Effective today, an appointment-only reservation system is being implemented for certain necessary and required in-person transactions at the RMV’s eight open and operating Service Centers. These essential transactions include certain Commercial Driving License (CDL) transactions and some new registrations. The Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers will remain open to exclusively perform walk-in commercial transactions for CDLs and permits (CLPs), and CDL road tests continue to be administered. For more information, visit https://mass.gov/RMV.
  • The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority announced it is reducing service on its fixed bus routes by suspending the final two evening runs on each route and ending service between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. each evening to protect passengers and drivers.
  • Beginning tomorrow, March 25, the Worcester Regional Transit Authority will be operating a Modified Weekend schedule on the weekday fixed route service. This service will operate from 5:45 a.m. to 10:35 p.m.  The weekend schedule will operate on a modified Holiday Schedule; the weekend service will operate from 8:25 a.m. to 7:10 p.m. The ADA and Paratransit service will be operating on this schedule. More info can be found here.
  • The 495/MetroWest Partnership has provided a comprehensive list of all RTA service modifications in the greater I-495 region.

Other Items of Interest

  • Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline continues to have up-to-date information on food resources, including new school sites, food pantries, and federal programs. Staff can also help callers with SNAP applications over the phone. Call volume has increased significantly over the past week, reflecting the increased need. The number is 800-645-8333 and we are open 8am-7pm, Mon-Fri and 10am-2pm on Saturdays throughout the crisis. 
  • Today, the Governor filed HD4974, which provides additional flexibility for municipalities and school districts in terms of deadlines for tax collection, compliance with the state’s MCAS assessment law, and other local services impacted by COVID-19. As the bill moves through the legislative process, the Legislature will be carefully assessing local needs to ensure that cities and towns have the support they need to keep their residents safe and continue to provide services.
  • State officials and the Massachusetts congressional delegation continue to urge federal leadership to pass a comprehensive COVID-19 stimulus package. More details to come.

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