COVID-19: May 21, 2020 Update From Representative Dykema

May 21 Coronavirus Update

Source: Department of Public Health data

As parts of our Commonwealth begin to reopen and more businesses are slated to reopen next Monday, I want to begin today’s newsletter by talking a little about where we are as a Commonwealth.

As you can see from the trends highlighted to the right, the past three weeks represent a marked improvement over the prior three weeks, during which Massachusetts was in the “surge” period of the pandemic. Daily positive cases, daily deaths reported, and the percent of positive tests conducted have all declined. We are seeing hopeful results that suggest our social distancing policies and practices are working.

However, we also see that we are not where we need to be. We are still seeing over 1,000 new cases reported each day and testing capacity is far below targets. Hospitalizations, which have dropped overall, are not steadily declining the way some other metrics are and 15 hospitals across Massachusetts are still using “surge” capacity. Some may think we’re moving too fast; others too slow. What is clear is that as we proceed, we need to be thoughtful and cautious, continuing to take all possible steps to stop the spread of the virus.

New Updates

Coronavirus Testing and Response

Source: Department of Public Health data
  • There are 90,084 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 1,114 new cases and 82 deaths as of today at 4pm. 
  • The average new cases over the last 7 days is 1,210, and the average number of deaths is 107.
  • 9.7% of the 11,533 tests reported today were positive, with a 7-day weighted average positive test rate of 9.4%.
  • 2,396 individuals are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, a decrease of 122 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.

Reopening Update

  • The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development has released a helpful  one-page summary of what businesses can expect in Phase 1 of reopening. This summary includes a timeline for reopening by industry sector, as well as the documentation required for reopening. More information can also be found at mass.gov/reopening.
  • If you need additional guidance or have questions, either as an employer or a worker, you can submit questions and comments on reopening using the online contact form or via email.

Health Care

  • Hospital Capacity: As of 5/21, 50% of the Commonwealth’s 17,200 permanent and temporary hospital beds are available for new patients if needed. In the MetroWest region, 38% of the region’s 2,400 beds are available for new patients.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: PPE distribution continues across the Commonwealth, with over 2,010,000 pieces of PPE distributed in the MetroWest region, including over 408,000 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 733 visits and conducted 46,122 tests as of 5/21.
  • Those wishing to access the statewide COVID-19 test locator can visit https://mass.gov/covidtestmap to find a provider close to them.
  • As a reminder, those who need health insurance coverage for June 1st must enroll through the Health Connector by Saturday, May 23rd. Today, the special enrollment period for health insurance coverage was extended to June 23rd, allowing individuals to enroll in new health insurance plans without a qualifying life event. More information on Health Connector services during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at mahealthconnector.org/covid-19.

Small Business

  • The MetroWest Chamber is hosting a series of free webinars on Paycheck Protection Program loan maximization and forgiveness, the next of which will be held on Tuesday, May 26 at 10 a.m. Those who have received loans through the PPP can receive loan forgiveness if they spend the loan primarily on payroll within a qualifying window. More information can be found here
  • Additional MA-specific resources on the PPP can be found on the MA Growth Capital Corporation website.

Education

  • Today, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released detailed guidance for families, schools, and school districts on how to safely conduct graduation ceremonies. The full guidance can be downloaded here.

Legislative Update

  • Today, the House of Representatives convened several groups to investigate different aspects of the new stage of the COVID-19 crisis and recommend policy changes as needed to address these unprecedented challenges. Speaker DeLeo appointed Majority Leader Ron Mariano to lead the Commonwealth Resilience and Recovery Special Committee, which will evaluate all aspects of the Commonwealth’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Education Chair Alice Peisch has also been appointed to head an Early Education and Care Recovery Advisory Group to address the child care needs created by the pandemic, and Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development Chair Paul McMurtry has convened an advisory group to make recommendations relative to the restaurant industry.

Additional Items

  • Today the Attorney General reached a $1.4 million settlement with Education First, an educational travel company, to refund families whose trips were cancelled due to COVID-19. Families who are seeking refunds for trips scheduled between March 11 and May 14 should call EF directly to get their refund. For international trips, families should call 800-665-5364 and 888-333-9756 for domestic trips.

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

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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