COVID-19 Update # 32 From Representative Dykema

April 20 Coronavirus Update

I want to wish everyone a healthy and safe Patriots’ Day.  This holiday celebrates and recognizes the perseverance, dedication, and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom – theirs and ours. Traditionally on this day, my district also celebrates and recognizes the athletes who participate in the Boston Marathon and their perseverance and dedication to their sport. Today, we instead recognize the dedication and sacrifice of our healthcare professionals, first responders, and essential services workers who are participating in the ultimate marathon – saving lives and protecting the public health.

There was important news this morning for those who are unemployed and not eligible for traditional unemployment insurance benefits: The Department of Unemployment Assistance has opened applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, federally-funded benefits for self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others who are out of work due to COVID-19 but not already eligible for benefits. To apply or learn more, visit https://mass.gov/PUA.

Coronavirus Testing and Response

Source: Department of Public Health data
  • There are 39,643 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 1,566 new cases and 1,809 deaths as of today at 4pm. 
  • NEW – The Department of Public Health has updated its daily reporting dashboard to include more detailed information on hospitalizations, demographic data, and county-by-county breakdowns. To view the new dashboard, check here
  • The State Public Health Laboratory and private testing facilities have now conducted over 169,000 tests for COVID-19. Over 7,000 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours alone.

Health Care

  • Personal protective equipment: PPE continues to be distributed across the Commonwealth. In the MetroWest region, over 680,000 pieces of PPE have been distributed, including 165,000 N95 masks and 99 ventilators. A detailed distribution chart updated through today can be found here.
  • Hospital Bed Capacity: Massachusetts’s hospital bed capacity for the surge currently sits at 18,100 ICU and non-ICU beds. As of April 20, 57% of beds are available statewide, including 42% of beds in the MetroWest region.
  • Mobile testing at long-term care facilities: The state’s mobile testing initiative continues, with the Department of Public Health reporting that 305 facilities have conducted 8,238 tests, with an additional 144 facilities receiving their own testing kits to conduct another 14,602 tests through April 19.
  • UMass Memorial received FDA approval to begin trials of COVID-19 treatment using blood plasma from COVID-19 patients who have fully recovered from the virus. The hospital has opened a web portal to create a registry of Massachusetts residents who have recovered from COVID-19 and may be matched with COVID-19 positive patients for plasma donations.

Unemployment and Worker AssistanceIMPORTANT UPDATE

  • Beginning today, many individuals who are currently out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic will now be able to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which will provide up to 39 weeks of 
  • Covered workers include: 
    • Self-employed individuals, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors
    • Those seeking part-time employment
    • Claimants that have an insufficient work history to qualify for benefits
    • Claimants that have been laid off from churches and religious institutions and are not eligible for benefits under state law
  • All accepted applications will initially receive the minimum weekly benefit amount, plus an additional $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) weekly benefit. Once a worker’s wages are verified, weekly benefit amounts may increase.
  • Currently, the system will be able to process benefits retroactive to the week ending March 14, 2020. Eligible workers will be able to request additional retroactive payment back to January 27, 2020 once approved.
  • To apply online, visit https://mass.gov/pua

Small Business

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration is soliciting comments on a proposed interim final rule to allow for principal loan forgiveness to Paycheck Protection Program participants. The interim rule goes into effect April 15 to maximize economic benefits to small businesses, and public comment is open through May 15.
  • The Associated Industries of Massachusetts have compiled a central COVID-19 resource page for Massachusetts business owners. To learn more, visit here.
  • For regional resources and information, visit the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission’s dedicated COVID-19 employer resource page.

Additional Items:

  • Local Westborough business PENTA Communications has released a video public service announcement encouraging individuals to stay home and practice COVID-19 prevention. All are encouraged to share the video to ensure that Massachusetts residents continue to remain vigilant to limit spread as the virus continues to run its course.
  • Today, the Governor signed H.4647An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency. This legislation places temporary restrictions in place limiting the ability of eviction and foreclosure proceedings to advance during and immediately following the COVID-19 state of emergency.

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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