COVID-19 Update #9 From Representative Dykema

New Updates as of March 25th

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 1,838 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 103 hospitalizations and 15 deaths as of today. Confirmed case numbers are expected to rise as testing capacity increases.
  • 19,794 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. Over 6,000 tests have been conducted in the last 24 hours alone.
  • Quarantining continues to be one of the most effective ways to combat the spread of the virus. More than 2,000 Massachusetts residents are officially under quarantine as they undergo monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, with over 1,600 having completed monitoring without further symptoms. 
  • The Governor announced that the state will convene a COVID-19 Advisory Group consisting of leading industry and scientific experts to support the efforts of the COVID-19 Command Center. Members include a former FDA administrator, the founder of the MIT’s Broad Institute, and two medical experts from Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • 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.

Health Care

  • Attorney General Maura Healey, along with 16 other state attorneys general, wrote to the President yesterday requesting that he use the powers of the Defense Production Act to increase production of masks, respirators, and other critical equipment.
  • Last week, MassBio launched the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency SupplyHub to help bring in additional supplies to our state’s healthcare institutions so they can continue to test and treat patients with COVID-19. Over 400 companies have already agreed to donate, but the need for equipment is still significant. To donate, visit this page.
  • Google has launched a centralized website offering education, prevention, and other resources. Visit https://www.google.com/covid19/ to learn more.
     

Grocery Stores and Pharmacies

  • Today, new guidance was put in place for safe operation of grocery stores and pharmacies. That guidance includes:
    • Minimum of one hour each day for 60+ only shopping.
    • Providing hand sanitizer and other safety products to customers.
    • Prohibiting reusable bags to reduce spread from customer to employee.
    • Suspending plastic ban bans and recyclable bag charges during crisis.
    • Accommodating high-risk employee needs to allow for low-exposure work or time off.
  • The full guidance can be found online here.

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. The next Town Hall is Thursday, March 26th at 11:10 a.m. 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.

Education

  • The Governor ordered the extension of the closure for all public and private schools, and all non-emergency childcare programs, until May 4 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The orders apply to both K-12 and early education programs.
  • As of 3/24, the Commonwealth had approved over 456 sites to operate as Emergency Childcare Centers. Daily attendance reported was 1,524 children, and today’s expected attendance is more than 1,700 children.

Transportation:

  • The Registry of Motor Vehicles remains open in limited capacity, with online appointments required for any in-person transactions. Several locations, including Milford, remain open for limited purposes, but customers are encouraged to conduct business online whenever possible. For information on the RMV system and which locations remain open, visit this page for more details.
  • The 495/MetroWest Partnership has provided a comprehensive list of all Regional Transit Authority service modifications in the greater I-495 region, including the MetroWest RTA and the Worcester RTA.

Other Items of Interest

  • The Department of Conservation and Recreation announced the closing of all athletic fields and courts, such as basketball, tennis, handball, pickle ball, and bocce, throughout the state parks system effective 3/24-4/7. State parks across the Commonwealth remain open, although DCR encourages visitors to remain in small groups and practice social distancing even outdoors.
  • Federally, Congress is close to reaching a final deal on a coronavirus stimulus bill totaling nearly $2 trillion in spending, including $150 billion for state and local governments and $150 billion for hospitals and other health care facilities. This process is still ongoing and I will provide additional updates from our congressional delegation, including direct impacts for Massachusetts, as soon as it becomes available. In his comments today, the Governor announced that there are six elements of the federal bill: 1) direct aid to individuals, 2) supplements to unemployment benefits, 3) funding for healthcare, 4) funding for states, 5) funding for municipalities, and 6) funding for small businesses.
  • 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. 

Press Release

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