COVID-19 Update #30 From Representative Dykema
April 17 Coronavirus Update
As we approach the end of the first week of the “surge” period in Massachusetts, I want to again recognize what an extraordinary amount is being asked of our health care workers. And they continue to respond to the overwhelming demands of this crisis without hesitation and incredible professionalism despite the risks to themselves and their families. It’s no wonder that our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, specialists, long-term care providers, and so many others continue to make Massachusetts #1 in healthcare in the country.
The best way we can say “thank you” is to each do our part to maintain physical distancing and prevention efforts, including wearing face coverings in public. We all have a part to play in the COVID-19 response and the hard-working medical staff and other frontline responders need our support.
Coronavirus Testing and Response
- There are 34,402 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 2,221 new cases and 1,404 deaths as of today at 4pm.
- For a breakdown of cases by county, age, and now race/ethnicity, check here.
- This data is also now available in a dynamic model.
- The State Public Health Laboratory and private testing facilities have now conducted over 148,000 tests for COVID-19. Over 7,000 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours alone.
- Police and firefighters in Massachusetts will receive 200,000 masks in the coming days from state stockpiles, as well as training and guidance on appropriate use.
- The state, together with FEMA, has set up 5 isolation and recovery sites for homeless individuals across the Commonwealth, in addition to sites in Newton and Boston offering respite beds for homeless patients with COVID-19. MEMA is also working to provide supplies for local efforts to establish quarantine sites for homeless individuals in 11 communities, including Framingham and Worcester.
- In addition, the state has set up an expedited process for homeless shelters to request PPE through the Department of Housing and Community Development.
- Personal protective equipment continues to be distributed across the Commonwealth. In the MetroWest region, over 500,000 pieces of PPE have been distributed, including 100,000 N95 masks and 99 ventilators. A detailed distribution chart updated through today can be found here.
- Massachusetts’s hospital bed capacity for the surge currently sits at 18,000 ICU and non-ICU beds. As of April 15, 56% of beds are available statewide, including 44% of beds in the MetroWest region.
- Mobile testing at long-term care facilities continues, with the Department of Public Health reporting that 279 facilities have conducted 5,883 tests, with an additional 103 facilities receiving their own testing kits to conduct another 10,995 tests.
- The federal Small Business Administration has released new guidance on debt relief for businesses who receive SBA loans, offering forgiveness and interest relief for some loans and automatic deferrals for others. More information on specific loan types can be found on the SBA website.
- The SBA also continues to update its online FAQ for the Paycheck Protection Program as more businesses apply and new questions and common issues are raised.
Unemployment and Worker Assistance
- Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) are beginning to be distributed and some individuals who have direct deposit information on file with the IRS may have already received them. More information on eligibility and distribution timeframes can be found online.
- The Department of Unemployment Assistance has updated its FAQ regarding Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (aid for those workers who do not qualify for regular UA, including self-employed and independent contractor workers). The portal is not yet open for applications but additional clarification on the information required of applicants is now available.
Children and Families
- DCF will be making a $100 per child per month payment to foster care families to help reimburse increased costs associated with keeping at home during the months of April, May, and June, a roughly 10-12% increase in overall support. This effort will support approximately 6,700 children in 4,500 foster families.
- The MetroWest YMCA continues to offer no-cost emergency child care for frontline responders and health care workers. Details and information on how to apply to the program can be found here.
Legislation and Policy
- Today, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that all candidates seeking to appear on the September 1 primary ballot will have their signature requirements reduced by 50 percent to ensure access to fair elections while protecting public health. The full decision can be read here.
- The House and Senate have both enacted legislation limiting evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill has now been sent to the Governor for his signature.
- Health Care for All has created a resource page to help ensure continued access to prescription drugs for Massachusetts residents who are experiencing challenges safely filling and renewing prescription medication.
- Baypath Elder Services continues to deliver Meals on Wheels to low-income seniors on Tuesdays and Fridays as part of its existing nutrition program. They are still taking new referrals and there is a critical need for volunteer drivers, so if you are interested in becoming involved with the program either as a recipient or a volunteer, you are encouraged to call the main number at 508-573-7200 and leave a message to receive a callback from the Nutrition Program.
- Although the Boston Marathon is special to each and every one of us, particularly those who live in Hopkinton, the Town has urged all individuals not to participate in any unofficial marathon activities on the originally-scheduled date of the race. Additional parking restrictions will be in place on April 20, and runners are strongly discouraged from traversing the marathon route to ensure that public safety officials and other first responders are able to focus on the COVID-19 response.
Resources for Residents Experiencing Job Loss or Loss of Income
COVID-19 is causing broad disruption to the economy which is affecting incomes of many residents and families. There are a number of state resources and supports available to support workers who may find themselves unemployed or otherwise income-constrained during this uncertain time.
For your convenience, you can find a guide of resources and information at: https://carolyndykema.com/covid19-state-resources/.
Additional Guidance on Unemployment Assistance