COVID-19 Update #31 From Representative Dykema

April 18 Coronavirus Update

U.S. Army Chief-of-staff General McConville spoke at the Governor’s briefing this afternoon.  He said we are fighting a war against an invisible foe – the virus. A critical part of the strategy is identifying and quarantining those who have the virus. Two components of this strategy are increased testing and contact tracing. 

We know that we have long way to go on both fronts. Testing needs to be made more widely available. Contact tracing efforts are just ramping up, and the state is hiring staff to trace and identify those who may have been in contact with a COVID-positive patient. So far, the state has conducted over 150,000 tests through public and private sources, and nearly 200 contact tracing staff have been on-boarded, with more to come. Both efforts are part of a strategic response to coronavirus that will allow us to most effectively contain the virus.

Coronavirus Testing and Response

Source: Department of Public Health data
  • There are 36,372 positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 1,970 new cases and 1,560 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.

Health Care

  • 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 16, 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 287 facilities have conducted 6,500 tests, with an additional 119 facilities receiving their own testing kits to conduct another 11,766 tests through April 16.

Nutrition

  • Prior to the current public health crisis, 1 in 9 Massachusetts residents were receiving SNAP cash assistance for nutrition, of which 34% were children, 36% identified as having a disability, and 22% were seniors. In the last month, the agency has received roughly 17,000 applications a week, a roughly 400% increase. SNAP and WIC (a nutrition program for pregnant women and young children) have moved services entirely online and the agency has obtained federal waivers to streamline the process. For more information on Massachusetts’s SNAP program, visit here.
  • Yesterday, the USDA announced the launch of a $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to support farmers, distributers, and retailers in maintaining the food supply chain during this period of uncertainty. More information on the program can be found here.

Legislation and Policy

  • Legislation giving health care professionals immunity from lawsuits and civil liability for alleged damages related to COVID-19, as long as the services were provided in good faith and did not stem from gross negligence, recklessness, or an intent to harm or discriminate. The workers in the field hospitals set up or soon to open in Boston, Worcester, Bourne, Lowell and Dartmouth would be covered under the bill. 
  • The Legislature passed a bill establishing a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures which is currently on the Governor’s desk. 

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.

Additional Items:

  • The Governor signed an emergency order allowing for programs offering residential placement to children in DCF care to create special quarantine sites and isolation units as becomes necessary during the state of emergency. Providers wishing to open sites can apply through the Department of Early Education and Care online.
  • 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

Press Release

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