COVID-19: May 18, 2020 Update From Representative Dykema

May 18 Coronavirus Update

As many of you have already heard, the Governor released additional guidance on the state’s reopening plan this morning. There is a huge amount of information that has been released along with this plan, and I have included additional details and information in a special section below. Here are some key takeaways:

Stay at Home has changed to “Safer at Home”: The new advisory asks all residents to stay home except for necessary shopping, permitted work, health care, and outdoor activities. High risk individuals, including those over 65 years old, should stay home except for essential errands. Gatherings over 10 people are still prohibited and close contact with those outside your household is strongly discouraged.

Face covering, social distancing, and handwashing are still essential: The statewide face covering advisory is still in effect. All residents are reminded that prevention measures including staying 6 feet away from those outside your household, thorough handwashing, and limiting unnecessary social contact will be critical to preventing a new surge in community transmission. 

Many businesses will reopen in limited capacities: Beginning today, manufacturing and construction industries can resume with proper safety standards in place. Beginning next Monday, May 25, some industries including retail can open in limited capacities. Office space located outside the City of Boston can open to 25% capacity, but businesses are encouraged to continue work-from-home policies if at all possible. If you have questions about which industries will open and when, visit this page

Progress toward full reopening depends on data: We are entering “phase 1” of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, but our timeline to advance through the next phases will depend on continuing improvements the key public health metrics. While a strategic and deliberate reopening plan is important to allowing much of the business of the Commonwealth resume as soon as possible, the primary concern remains keeping residents safe. 

Reopening Update

Below you will find summaries and links to key information on Massachusetts’s phased reopening plan. Full information can be found at mass.gov/reopening and comments on reopening can be submitted here. I will provide additional updates as they become available.

General Social Guidelines:

  • Safer at Home: All residents are strongly encouraged to stay home except for work, necessary shopping, outdoor activities, worship, and health care.
  • High-risk individuals are encouraged to stay home except for essential errands.
  • If you do leave your home, practice social distancing and cover your face when you can’t distance to 6 or more feet.
  • Gatherings over 10 people and non-essential travel are still prohibited.
  • Specific guidance on different outdoor recreation settings and activities has been released. The Outdoor Recreation Task Force presentation can be found here.

Business Reopening:

  • Beginning today, manufacturing, construction, and houses of worship can resume with safety precautions in place. Houses of worship are limited to 40% capacity.
  • Essential businesses can continue to operate, but must self-certify that they are in compliance with statewide safety standards by May 25. Information on self-certification can be found here, which also includes this helpful COVID-19 control plan template.
  • Beginning May 25, the following industries may reopen in compliance with industry-specific guidance and limitations:
  • General office space can reopen to 25% capacity outside of the City of Boston (June 1 for Boston), although employers are encouraged to maintain work-from-home/remote work policies if possible.
  • If you have questions on future reopening plans for businesses, or when your business can reopen, more info can be found here.

Health care:

  • Beginning May 18, hospitals and community health centers who attest to specific public health/safety standards can provide high priority preventative care, pediatric care and treatment for high risk patients.
  • Beginning May 25, other health care providers that comply with the same standards can begin providing high priority preventative care, pediatric care and treatment for high risk patients.
  • More information on health and human services in the Phase 1 reopening stage can be found here, including information on dental care and pediatric health.
  • As was the case before Phase 1, if you need emergency or acute care, please contact your doctor, visit an emergency room, or call 9-1-1 if necessary. If you have questions about scheduled appointments or what services are being offered, contact your provider directly.

Childcare and education:

  • Emergency childcare is still offered to essential workers. More information on this program can be found here.
  • K-12 schools and institutes of higher education remain closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Information on instruction for fall 2020 is expected by mid-June.
  • Recreational day camps will be part of Phase 2 and residential camps will be part of Phase 3. More details are coming soon.

Transportation:

  • Mask use on public transit is required and employers that do have employees returning to work in physical locations are encouraged to adopt staggered schedules to reduce transit demand at peak times. Frequent disinfecting on the MBTA will continue.
  • For Phase 1, all public transit schedules currently in operation are unchanged. That means that subway schedules are operating on a Saturday schedule and Commuter Rail is operating on reduced service. More information on schedules and MBTA operations can be found here.
  • Regional Transit Authorities continue to operate reduced schedules. Information for Worcester and MetroWest is online.

Public health metrics:

  • Progression into the next phase of reopening will depend on sustained positive trends in key public health indicators. Each phase will last a minimum of 3 weeks to ensure that we do not move quicker than lagging public health indicators.
  • Key indicators are: positive test rates, number of deaths, hospitalizations, health care system readiness, testing capacity, and contact tracing capacity. We are currently seeing promising trends in positive test rates and testing capacity but other metrics have not yet shown a clear positive indication.
  • The COVID-19 Command Center will begin providing updates on the status of these indicators on a regular basis.

The full Reopening Advisory Board presentation on the Phase 1 plan can be found here. The Governor’s order implementing this plan can be found here.

New Updates

Coronavirus Testing and Response

Source: Department of Public Health data
  • There are 87,052 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 1,042 new cases and 65 deaths as of today at 4pm. 
  • The average new cases over the last 7 days is 1,227, and the average number of deaths is 108.
  • 12% of the 8,373 tests reported today were positive, with a 7-day weighted average positive test rate of 10.2%.
  • 2,533 individuals are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, a decrease of 64 from yesterday.
  • The Department of Public Health regularly releases a daily reporting dashboard containing detailed information on hospitalizations, demographic data, and county-by-county breakdowns of cases. To view the DPH dashboard, visit here.

NOTE:

Today’s DPH data dashboard has been updated to better reflect reporting on key metrics that will guide our reopening plan. I will begin to incorporate this data in our daily newsletters and provide highlights on specific trends or changes in indicator status as they become available.

Health Care

  • Hospital Capacity: As of 5/18, 54% of the Commonwealth’s 17,600 permanent and temporary hospital beds are available for new patients if needed. In the MetroWest region, 39% of the region’s 2,300 beds are available for new patients.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: PPE distribution continues across the Commonwealth, with over 1,888,000 pieces of PPE distributed in the MetroWest region, including over 365,000 N95/KN95 masks and 136 ventilators.
  • Mobile testing: The MA National Guard mobile testing unit continues to visit and conduct tests at the Commonwealth’s long-term care facilities, having made 710 visits and conducted 44,453 tests as of 5/18.
  • As a reminder, daily dashboards also include facility-by-facility information on COVID-19 case numbers in skilled nursing facilities across the Commonwealth. Families with nursing home-related questions can also call the Nursing Home Resource Line at (617) 660-5399.
  • To meet its July goal of 45,000 tests per day, the state is submitting an expanded testing plan to the federal government by Sunday, May 24. Those wishing to access the statewide COVID-19 test locator can visit https://mass.gov/covidtestmap to find a provider close to them.

Local Resources

All of the towns in the 8th Middlesex District now have centralized COVID-19 resource pages with resources, updates, and alerts regarding town services.

HollistonHopkintonSouthboroughWestborough

The Department of Public Health also releases weekly reports on town-by-town COVID-19 case numbers and rates, which can be found online here.

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. 

Guide for job/income loss resourceshttps://carolyndykema.com/covid19-state-resources

Department of Unemployment Assistancehttps://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-unemployment-assistance

Department of Transitional Assistancehttps://www.mass.gov/dta-covid-19-resources-and-support

How You Can Help

Holliston Youth and Family Services requests your support of the Community Action Fund, which provides emergency assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Learn more or donate here.

The Westborough Rotary Club has launched a COVID-19 Community Relief Fund to provide assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Learn more or donate here.

The American Red Cross is asking for blood donations, the need for which is significant due to blood drive cancellations.The need is dire due to the cancellation of hundreds of blood drives. People can donate at the Worcester American Red Cross Donor Center, 381 Plantation St. Worcester or call 1-800-RED CROSS. Some local donor sites, including the Natick Senior Center, are available for appointments as well.

Information on our local food pantries can be found below.

The most pressing need right now is cash donations to ensure that food drop-off and delivery do not inadvertently contribute to the spread of the virus.

Holliston Pantry Shelf | Project Just Because | Southborough Food Pantry | Westborough Food Pantry

Current Statewide Advisories *UPDATED*

Safer at Home: As of May 18, the statewide stay-at-home advisory is now the  Safer at Home advisory. In many ways, this advisory remains in the same spirit as previous policies: You should practice social distancing and limit your non-essential interactions as much as possible. 

Face Covering: As reopening continues, the statewide face covering advisory remains in effect for public indoor and outdoor spaces in situations where social distancing is not possible. The full advisory and detailed guidance can be found online.

Reopening Guidance: For more information on the state’s phased reopening plan and particular industry-specific guidance, visit mass.gov/reopening. For questions about business reopening timelines, visit this page.

A list of all executive orders in place during the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 state of emergency can be found here.

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